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MLB to use the runner-on-second rule for extra innings this year

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Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports that Major League Baseball plans to implement a rule for the 2020 season in which extra innings games will feature innings starting with a runner on second base. The idea is to expedite the ending of games which end in a tie after nine innings given that the schedule will be so tight this year and long games will create greater problems this year than they normally would.

The runner-on-second rule has been in place in the minor leagues for the past two seasons. Under the minor league rule the runner at second base will be the player in the batting order position previous to the leadoff batter of the extra inning. So, usually, the guy who made the last out in the previous inning or a pinch runner for that guy. If the placed runner scored, it’s considered an unearned run.

The rule was pioneered in the World Baseball Classic and was tested in the Gulf Coast League and Arizona League before 2018, when all minor leagues adopted it. In 2017 Rob Manfred said he doubted the rule would ever be used in the majors, but I don’t suppose anyone could’ve anticipated what baseball in 2020 would look like.

For what it’s worth, I’ve attended minor league games in which the rule was used. It was . . . fine. If you have somewhere to be or if you need to wake up early the next morning it’s probably preferable to an 18-inning game you can’t stay awake for, but as far as baseball action goes, it’s pretty anticlimactic. It almost always causes the first batter of the inning to bunt the runner over to third and the games usually end pretty quickly. If that’s your bag, great, but it has all of the excitement of an NFL overtime game ending on an opening drive field goal.

Baseball seeking a second lab for MLB COVID-19 tests

MLB COVID-19 tests
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Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported last night that Major League Baseball is “actively pursuing an additional medical lab site to increase the speed and efficiency” of MLB COVID-19 tests.

The current setup — as planned by MLB and approved by the MLBPA as a part of the plan to play the 2020 season — is for all MLB COVID-19 tests to be sent to and processed by MLB’s PED testing lab in Salt Lake City, Utah. As you likely heard, there have been delays in the administration of COVID-19 tests and in the shipping of tests to Utah, but to date no one has reported that the lab itself has not been able to handle the tests once they’ve arrived there. If MLB is looking for a second lab site a week into this process, it suggests that their plans for the Utah lab might not be working the way they had anticipated.

The issues with testing have created unease around the game in recent days, with some players and team executives speaking out against Major League Baseball’s handling of the plan in the early going. Commissioner Rob Manfred, meanwhile, has responded defensively to the criticism.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reported this morning that, months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States still lacks testing capacity. From the report:

Lines for coronavirus tests have stretched around city blocks and tests ran out altogether in at least one site on Monday, new evidence that the country is still struggling to create a sufficient testing system months into its battle with Covid-19 . . .“It’s terrifying, and clearly an evidence of a failure of the system,” said Dr. Morgan Katz, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins Hospital . . . in recent weeks, as cases have surged in many states, the demand for testing has soared, surpassing capacity and creating a new testing crisis.

It’s less than obvious, to say the least, how Major League Baseball plans to expand capacity for MLB COVID-19 tests while America as a whole is experiencing “a new testing crisis” and a “failure of the system.” At the very least it’s less than obvious how, even if Major League Baseball can do so, it can do so ethically.