By: Donnie Menke ~Staff Writer~
Major League Baseball (MLB) announced that it would be testing new rules for extra innings in the lower levels of the minor leagues, particularly in the Gulf Coast League, a rookie league and in the Arizona League.
The new rule would put a runner on second base to start each half inning. The rule would be similar to the one used in the World Baseball Classic, where there are runners on first and second to start the inning. According to this rule, the runners are the players immediately ahead of the batter in the lineup, so the batting order proceeds as if the rule was not in place.
I can see wanting to implement this rule in the minor leagues and in rookie leagues. Having 18- and 19-year -olds play these extended games that don’t mean much can cause some serious problems later, as they are still adjusting to the rigors of pro baseball, and this rule could help ease the transition.
Also, with regard to the rookie leagues, people are not likely to be as invested in the games as they would be Major League games.
Even in the World Baseball Classic or the All-Star Game, this kind of rule could make sense, because neither one means very much in the grand scheme of things.
In games that mean little or nothing at all, this rule makes sense. Speed the game up, keep players healthy and energized and keep the fans from being too bored for games of this little magnitude.
I understand wanting to speed games up to keep people interested and coming back, and in games that are forgettable or unimportant it is not a horrible idea.
The problem arises in games that are important. Can you imagine games in September between teams battling for a division title or a wild card spot, postseason games that can affect who gets through to the next round or last year’s Game 7 of the World Series being ruined by this rule?
Extra-inning games generate excitement for many reasons. While I will concede that there are boring, 3-up, 3-down, every half inning extra-inning games, there are plenty that have exciting plays. There are plenty of games where homeruns in the top of an inning are cancelled out by homeruns in the bottom of an inning. There is always potential for a stunning finish.
Don’t get me wrong, boring extra-inning games exist, and this is the MLB’s way of trying to eliminate those games. But if this rule were to be implemented, how many exciting games would we lose or would be altered because of it?
Last year’s Game 7 between the Cubs and Indians did not need any help in manufacturing excitement. The 10th inning, and the rain delay leading up to it, provided all the excitement needed, without help from a rule like the one the MLB is testing.
In the MLB, players are there to play baseball. Baseball is their profession. They know the rigors of the season, and the fans are as invested in the game as they will ever be. In this case, the extra inning rule makes no sense in the MLB and would take away from the drama of extras.
The MLB has been trying to speed up the game since Rob Manfred has taken over the commissioner’s chair. Manfred is heavily invested in making the game marketable to younger viewers.
There are plenty of ways to do this, from shortening the allowed time between pitches to limiting the amount of warmup time allowed, but changing the extra inning rule should not be one.
The MLB needs all the drama it can get to keep fans interested, and this rule change would not be a good thing for the league.