MLB – BASEBALL TO EXPERIMENT WITH CURIOUS NEW EXTRA INNINGS RULE IN THE MINORS

Jeff Passan from Yahoo! Sports reported this week that Major League Baseball plans to test a new rule change in the minors that would “automatically” put a runner on second base in extra innings.  That is, at the start of the 10th inning and every inning thereafter.

The purpose is to create more action and move things along in a sport that is struggling to keep audiences interested and to help cut down on player fatigue.

Passan indicated that the specifics of the rule are still in flux and would be years away from coming to the majors, even if deemed successful in the minors.

Apparently, a derivation of the rule has been used in international baseball for almost a decade and will be implemented during this spring’s World Baseball Classic.

Personally, I’m not sure how to wrap my head around this proposed new rule.

On the one hand, I can see how it would help advance games more quickly, which is ultimately the purpose.

And, since both sides will always have a chance to bat before innings end, (and assuming each team gets their man at 2B in extras), fairness would not come into play.

Also, I can see how using this new rule would add more strategy to the game, which would make it more interesting for the audience as games progress towards extra innings.

However, I’m not sure I’d be totally comfortable with such a big change to our beloved sport.

Besides the fact that extra innings games can already be very fun to watch, tradition dictates that baseball doesn’t have a time clock.  Games just end when they end.  There’s a real beauty in that.

But, by applying this new rule, we will be tinkering with the way the game has been played for almost 150 years.

Still, since the sport is struggling, shouldn’t we attempt changes that could make it more exciting and appeal to future generations?

Of course, we don’t have the full details yet of how this rule will work.  It’ll be interesting to see them.  I have so many questions already.

For instance, how will the 2B runner be chosen?  Will he be the batter next in the lineup at the end of regulation?  Or, can the manager choose him at random? If so, how will that player dictate where the lineup starts in the 10th?

Is this baserunner an actual position player, or considered a pinch runner?  Will he be the same one used at the top of the 11th, 12th, 13th, etc.?

If the runner scores, how will the RBI count?  Would it go towards the batter who brought him in?  Will it count towards the pitcher’s earned-run average?

For now, this rule is only in the testing phase for MLB, but it’ll be interesting to see how it works on a lower level.

In the meantime, it may be prudent to keep in mind what Commissioner Bob Manfred recently told Yahoo’s Tim Hines – “Our goal is to make sure that our product is as tight and compelling as possible.  So what we’re focused on is eliminating points of delay in the game where there’s no action and it doesn’t affect the outcome of the game, but we can just move the game along a little quicker.”

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