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Extra(s), Extra(s), Read all about ‘em!

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An ode to bonus baseball

Boston Red Sox v Minnesota Twins Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

In 2002, I attended a Twins/Braves interleague contest at the Metrodome with my aunt. The Twins scored five runs in the first inning (off Greg Maddux, no less!), but the visitors plated five of their own over the course of the standard nine. That’s where the score stayed into the 10th...11th...12th...13th, etc. In the middle of the 14th, the entire crowd—or what was left of it—arose again for an encore of Take Me Out to the Ballgame—a 14th Inning Stretch! The good guys pulled it out in the bottom of the 15th when Cristian Guzman hit one off the baggy allowing Tom Prince to motor—okay, chug—around from first to score. To this day, it remains one of my favorite in-person baseball games ever witnessed.

When MLB released its rule changes for the abbreviated 2020 campaign, I was disheartened to see this new addition:

An extra-innings rule will begin each extra inning with a runner on second base.

Generally-speaking, I consider myself pretty progressive when it comes to MLB rule-tinkering. I’ve loved the multiple wild card teams, and I’m definitely in favor of a DH for both leagues. Heck, I’ll even die on the hill that World Series home-field advantage from the All-Star game was a positive development while it lasted. But messing with extra innings? That one is harder to stomach.

I can only think of two reasons for why MLB would want to significantly change the extra-inning format:

  1. Time-of-game considerations. With the seemingly endless hand-wringing over the length of baseball games these days, chopping down extra innings seems like a “gimme”. The problem? By the time nine innings are played, fans are free to leave at any time. At that point, all the hot dogs, beer, jerseys, and luxury boxes have been present and accounted for. If a fan wants to head for the exit or change the channel, nothing is stopping him/her from doing so. Sure, that fan ideally wants to see some sort of resolution, but is it genuine to have that resolution forced upon them? I would argue it is not.
  2. Player workload concerns. To a certain extent, I’m sure players hate extra-inning affairs. They wreak havoc on pitcher schedules, make the next-day turnaround even shorter, and simply require a greater expenditure of energy. I really cannot argue against any of those scenarios. Except to say, of course, that competitive affairs can’t be scheduled like a 9-to-5 job. Sometimes it takes a bit more time to declare a winner when the other side is fighting back (something a spreadsheet or word document never does). A very quick perusal of the Twins’ last few years showed they played—on average—about 12 extra-inning affairs per season, or roughly 7% of the schedule. I don’t consider that an enormous burden.

The 1991 World Series is considered one of the greatest ever played. A big reason why? Three out of the seven games went to extras. Game 163 in ‘09 is another all-time classic, and it took 12 nail-biting frames to complete. I realize that the “runner on second base to start each inning” plan is regular-season only—reverting back to normal come postseason— but do we really want to remove that tension from regular season contests? Last year, one of the most memorable Twins games was a 17-inning defeat of the Boston Red Sox.

Thus, I am hoping the new extra innings plan does not gain traction in the upcoming truncated campaign. Starting the “runner on” scenario after, say, 12 innings? I’d strongly consider a proposal like that. But right away in the 10th? It seems counter-productive to rob the sport of some of its most tension-filled moments.

Poll

What is your preferred extra-innings plan?

This poll is closed

  • 65%
    No changes—game plays normally until a winner is decided
    (81 votes)
  • 10%
    New rule—runner on base to start each extra frame
    (13 votes)
  • 24%
    My compromise—runner on base to start each extra inning after the 12th
    (30 votes)
124 votes total Vote Now