As MLB fans await the return scheduled return of baseball on July 23rd, the league has implemented several new ground-breaking changes for the pandemic-shortened season. For games that go into extra-innings, teams will start every inning with a designated runner on second base. The goal is to speed up and to shorten the chances of a game going deep into extra-innings. The rule is a first of its kind and accepted given certain circumstances. Once the 2020 season is over, the extra innings mandate needs to be repealed.
One of the best aspects of baseball is its uniqueness and the millions of different outcomes that can take place in any game. Baseball is the only sport of the four major sports that doesn’t operate on time. Millions of people are drawn to the MLB because there are no time constraints, and teams that are winning can’t just run out the clock. A team that is losing in the last inning by ten runs still has a chance to come back to win a game, and although rare, when a comeback like that does happen, it dominants the sports world and social media.
The same applies to baseball games that go into extra-innings as fans love unique baseball games that go beyond the 9th inning. While some games might be decided quickly in the 10th, some have gone as far as the 19th inning in recent years. As a game continues, more attention is given to the game via social media as the chances of seeing baseball’s best oddities increase.
For example, last year, the Chicago White Sox and Philadelphia Phillies played a game that went 15 innings. Both teams had gone into their bullpen by the seventh inning and were basically down to their last available pitchers. Phillies’ centerfielder, Roman Quinn, moved from centerfield to pitcher and threw the last two innings of the game for Philadelphia. One of the team’s starting pitchers, Vince Velasquez, came into the game to pitch run and later played left field. Velasquez made national highlights making several spectacular defensive plays late in the game. The pitcher turned outfielder made a diving catch, threw out a runner at home, and nearly did it again as the White Sox runner just barely scored ahead of the throw.
Much of MLB’s rich history is full of great moments that came in extra-innings, whether be Harold Baines’ 25th inning game-winning home run, Rick Camp’s game-tying home run in the 18th inning or Ryne Sandberg’s game-tying home run against Bruce Sutter. If MLB chooses to keep the rule, following this season, they run the risk of diminishing the fun and different outcomes of a game. The probability of seeing a walk-off home run or seeing a game go deep into extra-innings where a player is playing out of position will be seen less frequently. With teams starting the inning with a man on second, they will likely sacrifice the runner to third and try to score the run with the remaining two outs. A runner scoring from third will be more anticlimactic than the other exhilarating ways teams score winning runs in extra innings.
Commissioner Rob Manfred has tried throughout his tenure to change some of the most fundamental aspects to the game to improve the pace of play and bring newer fans aboard. Having a runner automatically on second for each team in extra-innings goes against the way baseball was designed to be played. For a league that has struggled to separate itself and prove how different it is from the other leagues, reducing the chances of seeing something unique in a game would not be great for the sport’s future going forward.