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2020 Vision (Part I): Extra bases in extra innings

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How did you feel about the new extra innings rule?

MLB: SEP 11 Braves at Nationals

In 2020, baseball fans experienced a lot of things they were heretofore unaccustomed too. In this series, I’ll be looking back at some of the changes that pandemic baseball necessitated, giving my thoughts on them, and then asking for your opinion.

First up: extra bases in extra innings.

When I first heard that MLB contests in ‘20 would feature a runner on second base to start each extra inning, I hated the idea. Though my politics lean towards “progressive”, when it comes to baseball I often find myself very much a traditionalist. I’m always concerned that too many changes will make the sport unrecognizable from the one I’ve known and loved.

As such, not only did I balk at the freebie baserunners, but I despised the rationale—time of game—behind it.

However, a funny thing happened once the first few bonus baseball contests came and went: I actually didn’t hate the new rule. By the end of the season, I rather enjoyed it.

The two main reasons for my about-face:

  1. The gift runner on the second sack led to more strategy. In a game currently configured for home run proclivity, extra inning games often felt like a “first one to homer wins” type of proposition. But a pre-heated runner in scoring position opens up more options: bunt him over and sacrifice him in? Shorten up swings and try to hit a blooper? Continue hacking away to potentially get a larger advantage (knowing your opponent will get the same setup in their portion of the frame)? There are legitimate pros and cons to each approach.
  2. Ridiculously long games ending more quickly. There—I said it. Sure, everyone has that one special extra inning contest that will live in their heart forever. For me, it was a 15-inning Twins-Braves battle in 2002 (won by a Cristian Guzman double scoring Tom Prince, FYI). The entire Metrodome crowd—or what was left of it—did the 14th inning stretch and fun was had. But for every lengthy classic there are also probably 7-8 protracted slogs. Contests between bad teams that ultimately mean little (besides utter bullpen destruction), or perhaps games that go 12+ innings and somehow still turn into a route (nothing worse than that, IMHO). Fans—especially the hard-core variety—watch those games as much out of the sunk-cost fallacy as anything else.

So, despite my initial recalcitrance towards the new extra innings structure, I ultimately found it to be more satisfying than scandalous. It was certainly exciting on this night, that is for sure. One potential compromise between old and new: perhaps play one “normal” extra inning before transitioning to a runner on second base. But personally, I’d prefer this new addition to stick around as-is.

What say you about bonus runners during bonus baseball?

Poll

Would you prefer extra inning games to...

This poll is closed

  • 37%
    Go back to pre-2020 rules
    (25 votes)
  • 15%
    Stick with the 2020 setup (runner on second in every half inning)
    (10 votes)
  • 46%
    Play the 10th inning as usual and then issue the free baserunner
    (31 votes)
66 votes total Vote Now