Major League Baseball has been actively searching for ways to speed up the game, as popularity has declined with the rise of high-paced sports, such as football and basketball.
Many of the changes are first tested at the minor league level before being implemented in the big leagues in order to decide if it is an effective tactic. One recent example of this would be the addition of a pitch clock to prevent pitchers from extending the game in between pitches.
Starting this season in the Arizona League and the Gulf Coast League, when a game goes into extra innings, a runner will automatically be placed on second base. This, hopefully, will eliminate long extra-inning games that can take hours to play, leaving fans disinterested and players tired for their next game.
Baseball fanatics live for the thrill of extra innings and the “do or die” mentality, but average fans often don’t see a five-six-hour baseball game as worth watching. This rule will also be enacted in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.
The longest game in MLB history took place in 1920 between the Boston Braves and the Brooklyn Robins and lasted for 26 innings, nearly triple the amount of a standard nine-inning game.
One of the biggest advocates for this rule change is executive vice president of baseball operations Joe Torre.
“It’s not fun to watch when you go through your whole pitching staff and wind up bringing a utility infielder in to pitch,” Torre said. “As much as it’s nice to talk about being at an 18-inning game, it takes time.”
This rule will also provide immediate drama, which is often missing from baseball games due to the lack of a game clock. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said he feels that this could help keep younger fans excited about the game.
If this proves to be successful, it could be implemented in the MLB in the future, although the process would most likely take a few years.
Despite the support from many of the MLB officials, there have been negative reactions from fans and even some players. Noah Syndergaard, starting pitcher for the New York Mets, tweeted “NOPE” with an attached link explaining the new rule.
Many fans are upset by this proposed rule change because they believe it takes out an essential element of the game. This rule, whose purpose is to shorten games, will take out the strategy of managing the team with limited resources.
While extra inning games do exhaust a team’s bullpen, there exists the challenge of deciding how to use available pitchers that comes with it. The managers are often locked in a battle of wits, where putting in a certain pitcher makes all the difference.
National League managers have the extra task of switching up the lineup when it is the most beneficial to use a pinch hitter. It can be amusing for both the fans and the teams when a utility player must come and pitch an inning. Sometimes position players pitched in college, so their skill is shocking.
When looking at statistics, Forbes has calculated that with this rule in effect, MLB teams will likely have a 6 percent increase in games ending after 10 innings. The rule also makes it expected that 75 percent of games will end in 11 innings or less; the current rate is 69 percent.
Even though baseball is considered “America’s pastime,” change is inevitable. The style of the game has undergone a transformation, as has the rest of the world.
Whether or not this rule takes effect in the MLB, baseball will still retain its essence of tradition.