Last week, we learned that Major League Baseball planned to test in the lowest levels of the minor league a new rule for extra innings: starting each inning with a runner on second base. Chief baseball officer Joe Torre seemed to be enthusiastic about the idea.
However, when the idea was publicized last week, it was roundly mocked. Anecdotally, I didn’t see anyone in full-fledged support of the idea. Those that were open to it were doing so in a more “crane your neck to look at the car wreck” kind of way.
Having absorbed a week’s worth of criticism over the idea, Rob Manfred spoke today and backtracked a bit on the idea, suggesting that he doesn’t expect the rule to ever be implemented in the majors. Via Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald:
There’s special purpose rules. Like pitch counts in the WBC or starting the 10th inning with a runner on base. What do I mean by “special purpose rule”? These rules or rule changes are designed to serve a purpose in some narrow settings and we don’t really expect that we’re ever going to apply them at the major league level, at least in the short term. In rookie ball where crowds are small, games are really developmental, starting the 10th inning with a runner on base makes sense because there’s really no developmental reason to play 18 innings and end with a shortstop pitching. And who knows, if we remain open-minded, we may learn something from this experiment that’s helpful moving forward.
In the end, though, baseball’s efforts to speed the game up miss the biggest offender: pitching changes. Finding a way to limit the down time between them, or limiting the amount of them that a manager can make would go a long way towards improving the pace of play.