This has already been met with loads of backlash, so I’m somewhat late to the party. From Yahoo Sports:
Major League Baseball plans on testing a rule change in the lowest levels of the minor leagues this season that automatically would place a runner on second base at the start of extra innings, a distinct break from the game’s orthodoxy that nonetheless has wide-ranging support at the highest levels of the league, sources familiar with the plan told Yahoo Sports.
Let me first try and make a case for this, as impossible as it may be.
I don’t think this is necessarily revolved around the pace-of-play issue the MLB is currently facing. This rule wouldn’t make the pace of the game faster, it would just shorten games that go into extra innings. That notion is interesting in itself, considering these guys play way too many games to have to go through a grueling 18 inning affair that ends when the backup shortstop comes in to pitch.
The other aspect of this or any potential major rule change is the ways teams will try to form strategies around it. Keeping to this blog’s tradition of not going over the top with research like some sort of try-hard, I’m not quite sure who the runner on second would be. If it can be anyone, that makes the fast guy who can’t hit so good a more valuable piece across the MLB landscape. What if it’s a last out scenario? You could see teams intentionally walking guys in the 9th to make sure they get a slower runner on second in the 10th.
This could also lead to the further extinction of the bunt, which I’m all for. I’m this close to making a T-shirt saying “bunting is stupid” and wearing it to work every day. If a guy is already on second base with no outs and you send a player up to bunt, you might as well hand it your resignation as a manager and your man card.
As sweet as that would be, I hate this rule. I hate this rule as hard as you possibly can. It completely changes the philosophical thinking of the game. The defense’s job is to keep people from getting on base. The offense’s job is to get on base. It’s two forces looking to keep each other from accomplishing one goal. A perfect balance that makes us love the game. Putting a guy on second defeats the entire purpose of what the defense is trying to accomplish.
I suppose I’m sort of a hypocrite because I love the college football overtime rules, which is essentially what this is. However, the difference is in football the offense actually controls and has physical possession of the ball. You’re still putting the defense at a disadvantage but theoretically they’re already at an unfavorable circumstance because they don’t control possession. In baseball, when you’re on defense you control the ball. You have to make a mistake for the offense to score. In this scenario, you can play perfect defense and throw perfect pitches and still lose. Ground ball out to the right side, fly out to center field, game over.
That’s not fair, and it’s also not baseball.