Coming to a dugout near you: Interpreters! Assistant hitting coaches!

Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

Hey, there are real changes a-comin' to Major League Baseball this season! Here's Jayson Stark (via ESPN.com):

Baseball owners approved a rule change last week, several sources have told ESPN, that would allow coaches and managers to bring interpreters to the mound this season for conferences with foreign-born pitchers who don't speak fluent English.

Almost every club's got at least one Spanish-speaking pitcher who doesn't speak fluent English. Some clubs have a pitcher from Taiwan or South Korea or Japan who doesn't speak fluent English. In Curaçao, the official language is Dutch. And most people think that big-time baseball will only become more internationalized in the coming years. It's not hard to imagine a future in which some teams employ two or three interpreters. Which is neither here nor there, I suppose.

Except I've got this nagging desire to keep non-uniformed personnel off the field whenever possible. I don't like to see cops on the field, or non-uniformed ball-boys/girls/dudes down the lines. It's always just slightly jarring to me, when the non-uniformed trainer trots out of the dugout to tend to some injured player. I consider the baseball field a grand stage, and I prefer the stage unsullied by those not assigned the costumes of the stage players. For the same reason, I cringe every time Joe Maddon walks to the mound wearing a hoodie.

Yeah, I know: That's just me. Nobody cares much any more about appearances. Players wear different-colored shoes, they pull their pants down below their ankles ... It's anarchy out there, and there's nothing to be done about it.

Another thing about interpreters? They'll be on the bench with the players and the trainers and the policemen and ... probably another coach! Stark:

Teams will be permitted to have a seventh coach in uniform, in the dugout, during games. Previously, clubs were allowed to have just six coaches dressed for a game. But with numerous teams adding a second hitting coach this year, clubs pushed for permission to have a seventh coach in uniform, and owners agreed.

Here, I'm going to sound like a curmudgeon again ... How am I supposed to keep track of all these people on the bench these days?

This is inevitable, though. And it's only going to get worse, or more, or some other word that doesn't necessarily have a negative connotation. The more you're paying your players, the easier to justify making relatively tiny investments in their care and feeding. Why only two hitting coaches? If you had four hitting coaches, each could focus on only three or four hitters. Why not a dedicated baserunning coach during the season? Why not another couple of pitching coaches? You could have one coach for power pitchers, and one for finesse pitchers; one for veterans, and one for the kids.

This limit of seven in-the-dugout coaches will probably last for a while. But I'll bet the coaching staffs will continue to expand, and within five years the in-the-dugout limit will be upped to eight. Oh, and the playing rosters will be set at 26, too. You think these are all small things, but they do add up. And then one day you look up and suddenly realize that you're the NFL, and you wonder what in the hell you were thinking.

Or you don't, probably. We don't like to think too much.

One bit of welcome news: Major League Baseball is finally, mercifully going to outlaw the ol' fake-to-third-and-throw-to-first move. I will admit that it's added some character to the game, over the years. I remember Bo Jackson falling for it once, and I remember that Dan Quisenberry was considered the master of the tactic during his time. But it really does make a mockery of the game, clearly violating the original intent of the balk rule, while just very rarely resulting in anything except a minute-long break in the action. We might someday remember it fondly, but we should all be glad that we're remembering it instead of actually watching it.

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