You’ve heard it from Twitter. Or maybe you heard it from the “Three White Boys Talking Baseball” Podcast. Perhaps you’ve heard it from fans. Next thing you know, you’ll be reading it in the sky as it trails behind a plane.
“MLB’s Extra Innings Runner at Second Rule Sucks.”
For those of you unfamiliar, in a slew of moves meant to enhance the game and make things more “exciting” during the shortened 2020 season, Major League Baseball made some rule changes. Some of them were left in 2020, like the generally well-received Universal DH. However, one rule has been adopted by the league, and fans are not into it. That rule is the “Runner on Second” rule.
If the game finished nine innings with both teams tied, the top of the tenth inning will begin with a runner on second base. That means whoever made the last out in the top of the ninth is now a live baserunner, and represents the potential winning run. That’s it. There’s nothing else to it. Except that it’s just not a good rule.
Let’s look at some outcomes.
- Get a base knock and that runner can score, giving you a lead. Boom.
- Hit a groundball in the infield, and you might just have a runner on third with one out. Sac fly and that runner can score.
- With a runner at third and two outs, you can pull off a squeeze play and potentially get the runner home.
Basically, all this rule does is reward singles, rather than extra innings doubles, triples, and home runs. Yes, if you hit a home run with a runner on second that’s a two-run home run, I’m not stupid. But still, why try and hit a home run when all you really need to do is hit a single.
The game plan of ending the game with one swing of the bat now has a completely different definition.
The rule’s intended effect is clear: keep extra innings games short. If that’s the only goal, it’s been very successful so far. However, I’d argue that this rule has an unintended effect that is more detrimental to the game than “longer games”.
Early this season, I watched a game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies, two teams destined to battle for the NL West basement. In the bottom of the ninth, the Rockies were down 5-4 when Sam Hilliard parked one, tying the ballgame and sending the game to extras innings. Sounds great, right?
Except the game would finish 10-8 after 13 innings, an addition of four more chances to win for each team. The play was incredibly sloppy and it got to a point where each side seemed to be waiting for the other team to blink, just so they could catch their breath. The baseball was bad. This rule didn’t make things better, it made the game look worse.
There’s nothing more detrimental to the game of baseball than abysmal play, and the “runner on second rule” is another way that the Commissioner’s Office has the right idea, but the wrong execution. Sure, we don’t want to be sitting through a 15-inning Wednesday night game between two losings teams. However, I’d rather that than watch two middling squads wait for the other to turn into a Triple-A team just so they can win.
The “Extra Innings Runner at Second” rule is bad, but the quality of play it creates is even worse.
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