Limiting mound visits? I’m totally there. Pitch clocks? I see the merit, and I don’t think the negative impact will be as big as some fear. So I’m there, too.
But this? THIS? I raise a huge eyebrow, sufficient to get me out of my drug-assisted foot-surgery-recovery and type a little something:
— theScore (@theScore) January 30, 2018
To be sure, the report here is just about exhibition games – like Spring Training and the All-Star Game – and if I believed that it would end there, then I’d be just fine with it. No one wants to see pitchers getting extended and hurt in exhibition games, or teams running out of players who probably just about ready to start resting.
But here’s the thing: MLB has floated this idea before, and it was not just in exhibition games. It was at rookie ball in the minor leagues, with an eye toward potentially, eventually, coming to the Major Leagues. This was the original report around this time last year, via Jeff Passan:
A runner starting on 2B in extra innings? It's happening in the minors and could in MLB, too. News at Yahoo Sports: https://t.co/zHhCzD4afi
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 8, 2017
As you probably know by now, I rarely react strongly to this kinda thing, but boy, this one set me off:
The idea, apparently, is that it would increase action in extra innings and also make games end more quickly, not only to preserve player health, but also because, in Torre’s very mistaken words, “It’s not fun to watch when you go through your whole pitching staff and wind up bringing a utility infielder in to pitch. As much as it’s nice to talk about being at an 18-inning game, it takes time.”
Even if I set aside the fact that long extra–inning games are among the *MOST* fun baseball experiences, it’s not as if casual fans are tuning in for 11 innings and then deciding they hate baseball in the 12th. Casual fans are hooked on baseball in small, digestible doses, and by very exciting games that they invest in and experience until the end. Frankly, I can’t think of better games to fit that bill than ones that go into extra innings and resolve themselves organically.
Which brings me to what I really, really, really hate about this proposal: rather than adding artificial drama to extra innings, it completely saps the drama. Most of the excitement about extra innings is that the game could end at any time, and it could end in so many ways. If you add a runner to second base with nobody out to start every extra inning, suddenly the pool of ways the game could end shrinks by about 95%. Each team will bunt virtually every time to start that inning. And let me tell you something that does not produce drama and excitement: sacrifice bunts.
This is ridiculous. I am officially riled up at how asinine this proposal is. Because what? All fans are sitting there when the 10th inning starts, thinking “boy I just hope this game ends with a sacrifice bunt and a sacrifice fly! PLEASE BABY BUNT AND HIT A FLY BALL OF MEDIUM DEPTH!”
So, then, you can see why any current proposal that adds an additional testing ground for this terrible idea makes the hairs on my neck stand up in terror.
For now, the players are on board with the plan, according to the AP, because it prevents injuries in games that don’t count, and the report indicates, “MLB isn’t considering using the rule in any games that count.”
Again, should MLB keep it that way for the long, long, long forseeable future, then I’m fine with this change, too. The All-Star Game no longer “counts” (thank God), and Spring Training games often end early anyway. But given the way this was discussed last year by MLB, I’m extremely nervous that they perceive this as a stepping stone to making this horrible, terrible, no good change in MLB regular season games. If that ever comes up, I’ll be fixin’ to fight.