Although Harold Baines is no longer the first base coach, we'll still be seeing him around. According to Jayson Stark at ESPN.com, baseball owners approved the presence of a seventh coach in the dugout, which is one of three new rules expected to take effect this season.
Stark said that clubs pushed for permission to allow another coach to sit in the dugout since numerous teams have created the role of assistant hitting coach. The Sox might have joined in the request, as Baines assumed that official role last month. While Mike Gellinger was considered Greg Walker's assistant coach, his official title was "computer scouting analyst," so whether he was in the dugout during a game might not have made any significant difference.
Assuming Baines doesn't transform into some kind of camera hog, the other two changes are likely to be far more noticeable:
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.
Rob Neyer isn't a fan of this one, because he prefers as few non-uniformed people in the dugout and on the field as possible.
I don't care for it either, but more because it seems like a team should have the right to maintain an advantage if they develop a working communication system between players who speak different languages.
I'll admit that bias could be a factor -- Don Cooper speaks fluent Spanish, so a translator would likely be superfluous for the Sox. And I'm also taking too narrow a view in some respects. Spanish-speaking players are often left to their own devices (Ozzie Guillen noted the disparity in assistance Asian players receive back in 2010), and any way to help them assimilate likely helps the game.
But I'm just fond of the idea of teams making adjustments to its personnel. They have to talk to each other, and necessity being the mother of invention, teams probably develop some interesting linguistic mash-ups between English and Spanish, Japanese and/or Korean to get by. Then again, I also like the way Quebec freaks out when the Montreal Canadiens hire a non-Francophonic coach. Words and languages are fascinating in general if you really think about it.
Where was I?
Right. Last but not least:
The fake-to-third, throw-to-first pickoff move now would be considered a balk.
Twenty years ago, this move would have hurt the Sox, because Jack McDowell was the best at it. And hey, his ChicagoNow blog entry about the mechanics of the fake still exists in all its unformatted glory, so read it while you can.
In recent years, though, the Sox have been on the losing end of the rope-a-dope. Going through the game recaps between here and Sox Machine, I found three instances of the Sox getting tricked.
Last season, on April 17 against Baltimore, Alex Rios took off as Darren O'Day faked in the direction of A.J. Pierzynski on third. Rios was tagged out at second to end the inning, stranding the potential tying run at third in a game the Sox lost by one run. Here's the video evidence:
Before then, I had to go back to September of 2010 for the other two. On Sept. 4, Tim Wakefield faked out Alexei Ramirez in the top of the ninth.
The Red Sox tagged out Ramirez while freezing Pierzynski at third. The mistake might have cost the White Sox an insurance run, but they still won, 3-1.
The second one took place against Oakland on Sept. 22, when Brad Ziegler fooled, um, Alexei Ramirez again (what is it about White Sox shortstops getting duped twice?). But this one had a better result:
That said, I did find one instance of a Sox pitcher pulling the wool over an opponent's eyes in between. On April 10, 2011, Gavin Floyd faked out Johnny Damon, so it was great to see somebody else suffer the utter embarrassm--
Yeah, get rid of it. We'll always have Sean Lowe and Mark Grace.