Jim Palmer Endorses The King’s Pass

Jim Palmer, Hall of Fame pitcher, sometimes serves as the color man on Orioles broadcasts. He’s pretty good at it too, especially when he is analyzing the pitching. During yesterday’s Red Sox-O’s game, which I had to watch on the Orioles network because the Red Sox feed was blacked out, Palmer was talking about Sox slugger Rafael Devers becoming the first batter in MLB history to b called because he wasn’t ready for the pitch under the new pitch clock rules. His gaffe undermined a burgeoning Sox comeback rally in the 8th inning.

“It kind of left an empty feeling, and I’m not even for the Red Sox, “Palmer said. “I mean, you’re in the stands, you paid all that money, and your best hitter is called out because he’s looking at the pitcher a second or two too late. I understand why we’re doing it, but boy, it was disappointing.”

Essentially what Palmer was arguing for, though while not having his most articulate moment, was Rationalization #11, the King’s Pass, also known as “The Star Syndrome.” It makes sense that Jim would favor the Star Syndrome, where a team’s best players get away with misconduct that get third-string catchers released, since he was undoubtedly the beneficiary of it during his long and successful career. But it’s unethical thinking like that that causes NBA refs to hold back on fouls on star players in close games (and why I don’t watch the NBA any more). A few months ago, I heard another baseball “expert” say that umpires shouldn’t call batters out on close checked swings to end a one-run game. That’s advocating a system when rules are enforced differently depending on when they are violated, at the discretion of the umpire. Such a system resembles Calvinball, and such a sport has no integrity. Palmer also seemed to be suggesting that Devers should get a break because he’s a star, but an ordinary hitter should not.

Why is a batter getting called out that way worse for the game than a pitcher balking in the winning run? Or walking in the decisive run with the bases loaded? Or a game ending with a reversed umpire’s call after a challenge and replay?

Palmer is an old goat who isn’t used to the new rules yet, that’s all. In fact, the institution of the pitch clock, as I already wrote about here, has been a spectacular success, slicing last year’s average game time by about 15%, losing no action at all, just dead time. It won’t be a success for long, though, if the rule is selectively enforced.


Hey! I just saw that Ann Althouse also wrote about Jim’s quote! Let’s see what she said...Oh. Nothing. She just put up the quote and let her commenters do the work. Let’s see if they came up with anything….nothing related to ethics, no. This comment’s thrust did occur to me while I was writing the post, however,

No Boston Red Sox player is above the law. To the bottom of the stats with him for 33 counts of Obstruction of Baseball and fraud in score card keeping.

8 thoughts on “Jim Palmer Endorses The King’s Pass

  1. I don’t think Palmer was necessarily saying that star players ought to be treated differently or that the call was wrong, just that from a fan’s perspective it’s disappointing that Devers didn’t get a chance to hit. That, I think, is undeniable.

    • I am conflicted in this.

      Whatever good the pitch clock has done (consequentialism), it has not fixed a real problem.

      Basketball instituted a shot clock to prevent players from STOPPING play by not playing offense.

      Same with football.

      When your game is timed, delay can give you an advantage.

      None of that applies to baseball.

      As a result, penalties based on the pitch clock are going to look like a needless interference with the game.

      I don’t think there is a rational way around it.

      • I disagree, Jut. Numerous people have stated games this year in spring ball and now in the regular season are lasting no longer than games did in 1985. How the heck did that happen? There were evidently rules about pitchers and batters not diddling around that were simply not being effectively enforced. The clock brings this out in the open and makes it consistent. I find the pitchers’ being able to call their own pitches with the little electronic device on their gloves really, really interesting. I think it’s kind of a neat, throwback sort of thing. It’s like having Bart Starr or Johnny Unitas calling plays. Having every pitch signaled in from the dugout was baseball nerd overkill. I do wonder how anyone calls for location anymore. Not sure if that’s a good or bad thing. I wonder whether no one misses it because if the call is for a slider or a curve or even a fastball with a tail on it, pitches tend to do what they want to do regardless of intent.

  2. Didn’t watch the game so I’m relying on the quote above (the same as reported in the New York Times), and I think it can be taken as disappointment in Devers, or at least in the situation, not necessarily as a call for special treatment. May have come off differently in the live broadcast.

  3. Our good friend Judy McNally was married to Jim McNally, Dave McNally’s older brother and car dealer partner in Billings, Montana, where the McNally boys were from. Dave was your typical man among boys growing up in Billings. He’s been gone quite a while but he’s still a big deal in Billings. There’s a life-sized statue of him outside the Billings ballpark. He liked living there because people left him alone. He and Palmer were, of course, fellow starters for the Orioles. Dave was also the losing pitcher in the series clinching game with the Miracle Mets in 1969, toward the end of his career. Mrs. OB had (may still have) a crush on Jim Palmer, largely because of his underwear ads. She was amazed to learn Judy would have dinner with Jim Palmer when she and her husband would visit Dave, usually on Orioles road trips.

  4. I would like to think that this is just part of the getting used to it process for any new rule, but I am no longer as certain of that. I think MLB will have to keep the emphasis on the pitch clock rules if they want to continue to achieve the desired effect.

    Once upon a time, I believed that ‘professional’ hitters would adjust their hitting to take advantage of the shifts that teams used against them — hit the ball to the areas their opponents had vacated. Over time, that proved to be wrong — the vast majority of ‘professional’ hitters in MLB refused to take advantage of the opportunities opposing teams gave them, instead continuing the same hitting approach that made the shift effective in the first place.

    They griped enough, evidently, that MLB changed the rules in their favor. All well and good, I reckon, but I’ve lost some respect for MLB players in the process.

    So I think MLB will have to be alert to players (really both hitters and pitchers) trying to undermine this new rule, if they want it to work.


    p.s. Yes, I know that Ted Williams also refused to change his approach when faced with the shift — but I am prepared to make some allowances for a .400 hitter. If any of the current players were to have hit .400, I might make some allowances for them too…..

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