Major League Baseball may have made a huge mistake

Getty Images
85 Comments

Yesterday I wrote about the rules changes announced for Minor League Baseball. Specifically, the alteration of the pitch clock and, more significantly, the rule in which all extra innings games will begin with a runner on second base.

While limited to the minor leagues in 2018, Major League Baseball has made no secret of the fact that it views the minors as a lab in which to experiment with such things. Pitch clocks generally worked in the minors and now Rob Manfred is poised to put them in the majors next season. If the man-on-second rule works — however one defines “works” — it may very well be on its way to the majors sometime soon.

I gave my take on the man-on-second rule yesterday: it seems unnecessary and will lead to almost every extra inning starting with a bunt followed by an intentional walk, which is nothing anyone wants to see. That aside, I find it more of an eye-rolling thing than a source of outrage. For the precise reason it is unnecessary (i.e. there aren’t that many extra innings games) is the reason I won’t get too worked up about it.

Based on the feedback I’ve gotten in the past 24 hours, however, I feel like I am in the distinct minority in this view. People are angry. Very angry, and I feel like the anger is such that Major League Baseball will be pressured to rethink the rule sooner or later.

To be sure, there is a subset of fans who will complain about any rule change as if it’s the end of the world. I’m not talking about the major ones. Yes, people are still angry about the DH 45 years later, but that was big. I’m talking about the ones who are set off by even minor changes. The takeout slide rule. Batting helmets on base coaches. The new intentional walk rule. Everyone has opinions about these at first, but some people get super mad. For the most part, though, a few months later, no one really cares anymore. The game is the game and it can stand minor alterations.

The response to the runner-on-second rule strikes me as different, though. People are legitimately upset. A lot of people, not just the usual whiny subset. I’m basing this on the comments I’m seeing here on the blog, over at my public Facebook page, on social media, and questions I’m getting from casual fans who normally wouldn’t care. People feel like the man-on-second rule is a bridge too far. That it crosses some line that previous rules changes haven’t in that it fundamentally alters the way the game is played rather than changes the context in which it is played in minor ways.

I am still, personally, inclined to think it’s not a major thing, even if I don’t care for it. At least for now, as it’s limited to the minors. Maybe I’ll feel differently about it if and when a game I care about is decided in this rather silly fashion, but I’m not yet prepared to storm the battlements over it.

Beyond the jaded types like me, however, I suspect Major League Baseball has stirred up a hornets nest. The fans who are aware of the rule change one day in are pissed about it and the more fans learn about it — maybe on their first trip to a minor league game this year, maybe while hearing about it during a big league broadcast — more will be pissed. In this I think the fallout from this rule, if it is pursued beyond the experimental stage, will be greater than the usual sorts of rules changes that come along every year or two.

Yes, all of this is still in the hunch stage, but my hunches about such matters are usually pretty good. If I had to place a bet, I’d bet that baseball backs off the man-on-second rule pretty quickly because fans utterly hate it. Or will.

Braves sweep Mets, take 2-game lead in East with 3 remaining

atlanta braves
Adam Hagy/Getty Images
1 Comment

ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered for the third straight game, Travis d'Arnaud hit a go-ahead two-run single in the third inning, and Atlanta Braves beat the New York Mets 5-3, completing a three-game sweep of their NL East rival and taking a two-game lead in the division with three games to play.

The defending World Series champion Braves have been chasing the Mets the entire season. In the final series of the season, any combination of one Atlanta win or one Mets loss would give the Braves their fifth straight division title.

New York plays its final three games of the season against worst-in-the-majors Washington. Atlanta closed out the regular season with a three-game set in Miami. Should the season end Wednesday in a tie, Atlanta would win the division after claiming the season series 10-9 with Sunday’s victory.

The Braves won five of the last six games in the series, outscoring the Mets 42-19 over that stretch. New York had a 10 1/2-game lead on June 1 but now is the lower in the standings than at any point this season.

It was a lost weekend for New York, which came to Atlanta hoping to clinch its first division title since 2015. Instead, aces Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer lost Friday and Saturday before 15-game winner Chris Bassitt lasted just 2 2/3 innings on Sunday.

Swanson took Bassitt deep to right-center in the first with his 25th homer, and Atlanta took charge with a three-run third. Bassitt (15-9) issued a bases-loaded walk to Olson before d’Arnaud delivered a single up the middle to score Ronald Acuna Jr. and Austin Riley for a 4-3 lead. That chased Bassitt, who was charged with four runs, three hits and three walks.

Olson connected for his 33rd homer to make it 5-3 leading off the sixth, his 410-foot shot landing in the seats in right-center. Olson, in his first year with Atlanta, surpassed 100 RBIs for the second straight season.

Charlie Morton stranded runners on first and second in the first, but he gave up Daniel Vogelbach‘s 18th homer that tied it at 1 in the second. The righty struck out Francisco Lindor with runners on first and second to end the threat.

Jeff McNeil went deep off Morton in the third and Vogelbach followed with an RBI single to put the Mets up 3-1. Morton entered the game having allowed 28 homers, sixth-most in the NL.

Morton scuffled throughout his start, giving up three runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings as the 38-year-old made his first start since signing a $20 million, one-year contract to remain with Atlanta next season.

Dylan Lee (5-1) relieved Morton and pitched 1 1/3 innings, leaving after a walk to Brandon Nimmo with two outs in the sixth. Collin McHugh entered and struck out Francisco Lindor.

Raisel Iglesias faced four batters in the seventh, A.J. Minter faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen converted his third save of the series with a clean ninth.

Jansen leads the NL with 40 saves in 47 chances.

The Braves’ bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA last month, pitched 8 2/3 scoreless innings the last two nights.

BIG NUMBERS

Atlanta leads the NL with 241 homers. And the Braves have their first 100-victory season since 2003.

TWO, DARN HOT

McNeil went 3 for 5 and has multiple hits in five straight games. His average is .326, one point behind the Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman for the NL batting title. In 23 career games at Truist Park, McNeil is hitting .395 with 12 runs, nine doubles, two homers, seven RBIs and four walks. … Jansen tied Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley for eighth place on the career list with 389. He’s also is the 10th closer to have four different seasons with at least 40 saves.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. … Braves 2B Ozzie Albies (broken right pinky finger) is still wearing a cast. … Braves RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique.

ATTENDANCE

The Braves drew 42,713 in their regular season finale, the club’s 42nd sellout of the season. Overall. that’s 3,129,931 for the season – and the most tickets sold since 2000. In 2019, the team’s last full season before the COVID-19 pandemic, Atlanta drew 2,655,100.

UP NEXT

Mets: RHP Carlos Carrasco (15-7, 3.95 ERA) will face Nationals RHP Cory Abbott (0-4, 5.11).

Braves: RHP Bryce Elder (2-3, 2.76 ERA) will face Marlins LHP Jesus Luzardo (3-7, 3.53).