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.

MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

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PHOENIX — Even with the homer heroics of sluggers like Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million fans flocking to Dodger Stadium for an average of 47,672 per contest. The Oakland Athletics – who lost 102 games, play in an aging stadium and are the constant subject of relocation rumors – finished last, drawing just 787,902 fans for an average of less than 10,000 per game.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second, drawing 3.32 million fans. They were followed by the Yankees (3.14 million), defending World Series champion Braves (3.13 million) and Padres (2.99 million).

The Toronto Blue Jays saw the biggest jump in attendance, rising from 805,901 fans to about 2.65 million. They were followed by the Cardinals, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Mets, which all drew more than a million fans more than in 2021.

The Rangers and Reds were the only teams to draw fewer fans than in 2021.

Only the Rangers started the 2021 season at full capacity and all 30 teams weren’t at 100% until July. No fans were allowed to attend regular season games in 2020.

MLB attendance had been declining slowly for years – even before the pandemic – after hitting its high mark of 79.4 million in 2007. This year’s 64.6 million fans is the fewest in a non-COVID-19 season since the sport expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

The lost attendance has been balanced in some ways by higher viewership on the sport’s MLB.TV streaming service. Viewers watched 11.5 billion minutes of content in 2022, which was a record high and up nearly 10% from 2021.