TEMPE, Ariz. -- Remember that night in Yankee Stadium on Aug. 9, 2011? The Angels held a two-run lead in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, runners on the corners and Mark Teixeira at the plate. Then-closer Jordan Walden faked to third base, turned back to first and caught Curtis Granderson in a rundown to end the game.
Nothing like that will ever happen again.
Major League Baseball has eliminated the third-to-first pickoff heading into the 2013 season, as approved in the Owners Meetings in January, mainly because it was too deceptive to the runner at first. From now on, that move will be considered a balk.
Angels ace Jered Weaver also benefitted from the move in Yankee Stadium, starting a double play in the early part of an eventual 10-8 win last July 15.
"It's something that's been in baseball for a long time, and we've grown accustomed to it and seen the benefits from the defensive end of it, so it's a little bit of a slight system shock when they take out something that's become a valuable tool in controlling the running game," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia, part of Bud Selig's Special Committee for On-Field Matters. "I think everyone looks at it like you never pick anybody off, but that was never the directive of that move. It's really to control the jump of the guy at first base. We've done a great job of that over the years."
The rule change will allow teams to be more aggressive on the basepaths, of course, but it'll limit how much teams can control the running game. Scioscia will have his pitchers work more on the pickoff move directly to third base this spring, since pitchers now have to throw there when they step off the mound.
"Certainly a pitcher will have to be more cognizant of getting the ball to the plate," Scioscia said, "because when you have a live pick to third, there's less of a deterrent to that baserunner [at first base]."