Not the same but CLIFF LEE!

In the grand tradition of empty gestures, the powers that be at Major League Baseball confirmed that the “fake to third, throw to first” pick off move is now illegal. Unsurprisingly, this lead to an outcry from pitchers and catchers the world over, lamenting the loss of their favorite and most effective tool for neutralizing the potent running game of baseball’s best bag thieves.

Except that didn’t happen at all. Much like the decision to allow HGH blood tests, this is another move for the sake of making a move – a lame attempt at a winning some PR points without upsetting the apple cart.

The decision to ban this pickoff feint was made in the name of speeding up the game? Really? That cannot be serious. It isn’t the only change to the fringes of the rulebook for 2013.

Jayson Stark of ESPN has the latest on the proposed rule changes, noting a seventh coach in uniform will be permitted in the dugout and interpreters are allowed during mound visits! It’s all about speeding up the game, people! The changes received approval at the recent owners meetings but require the go-ahead from the players association before they become law. Well, “law”.

There is no harm in making any these rule changes – just as there is little benefit. The fake throw play is now a balk, though it remains to be seen if umpires are under further instruction to call all the other balks which go unnoticed in the average big league game.

No word on whether the league will go after the Red Sox, whose pitchers continually rank at the bottom of the pace leaderboard maintained by Fangraphs. The real culprits are out there, instructing their pitchers to stall and dawdle and waste everyone’s precious time when they are on the mound.

Meanwhile, the league sleuths crack down on fake throws designed to dupe the dimmest of base runners. Who says bureaucracy and red tape don’t work?

And the rest

What Timmy needs: to stop throwing the ball over the middle of the damn plate, apparently. [Fangraphs]

Bryce Harper is a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live tonight. Because when I think of great late night TV, I think of Mormon teenagers. [Washington Post]

The Oakland A’s extended the contract of Bob Melvin, rewarding the manager who lead the Athletics to a shock AL West title with two more years. [SF Chron's Drumbeat blog]

Rob Neyer goes off on the idea that Jack Morris suffers because of the Internet [SB Nation]

Harvey Araton of the New York Times wants the media out of the baseball player honoring business. [Bats]

Heath Bell has a house.

Pray for Nyjer. His twitter account was “hacked” in that he done messed up. [BLS]

Knuckleballing prospects are the new inefficiency. They all swear an oath to work with Tim Wakefield to hone their craft. [ProJo]

Five 2012 seasons that were better than your realized. [Brisbee]

Sponsored content on Getting Blanked? Get my fainting couch! [Satire is dead]

Robbie Cano struggles against lefties now? Is nothing sacred? [Baseball Prospectus]

The top 15 prospects in the Los Angels Angels system. The worst in baseball but Mike Trout is the best player in baseball and is younger than NINE of these stiffs. [Fangraphs]