Why MLB’s extra-innings runner-on-second rule is better for baseball — and its fans — than marathon games
The MLB Competition Committee voted unanimously to automatic filling of the baserunner in a second is a constant rule of the regular season.. There has been a lot of horror on social media, which goes without saying on almost any occasion. Many people hate this rule.
I’m an avid baseball fan and I love it.
The biggest reason I’ve heard from fans who love it, and the biggest reason I’ve come to support the rule strongly after being lukewarm at best at first: people want to see the game end.
Placing an auto runner at second base to start each half of an inning has been shown to increase the score and, as a consequence, end the game faster in terms of innings played.
Think about a weekday evening, or more importantly, a school night. At some point, people who have a “normal” job or kids at school just need to go to sleep. You can argue around this as much as you like, but at some point it is a reality. With a regular season of 162 games, you will lose a significant portion of your audience as the games move into extra innings. The deeper they go into the extras, the more fans you lose before the finale. I just can’t understand the thought that losing a large percentage of your audience before the end of the game is somehow good for the overall state of the game.
Think back to watching some of those 14, 15 or 16 inning marathon games before 2020. How many fans are left in the crowd compared to the start of the game? Twenty percent? 10 percent? Less? All these fans left early, not because they don’t like baseball enough, but because they really have life’s responsibilities. And, of course, there could have been many funny moments during the night, but, in the end, the vast majority of the fans at the game were forced to leave without seeing the winner of the game. What if we’re talking about a family with a few young kids who just really wanted to see one game this season and had to take the kids home without seeing the team win the game?
There are obviously baseball reasons for liking this rule.
Once you hit your teens in innings, every player in position is worn out or replaced by lower players and it’s just not quality baseball. As one of my colleagues has pointed out several times, the result is that it becomes nearly impossible to tie hits together, meaning you’re just waiting for a solo homer that can only come in the 19th inning.
These marathon games also ruin the next few days for each team in terms of their pitching situation. Reverbs can be even longer. Yes, there are minor league teams that can be used to move pitchers back and forth, and I’m well aware that teams need to have pitchers that can work multiple innings, not just boot on one-inning pitchers.
Besides, however, what harm – real, real harm – is there in creating a mechanism to help finish extra games early for the sake of almost everyone involved. Most players love it. Many fans love it. In all likelihood, all fans will see the end of the game sooner, although there will always be exceptions. I don’t see any harm in this, except for the annoyance of die-hard fans who have unusual work schedules (like mine) and who think that everyone who disagrees is simply not a real baseball fan.
It’s just not baseball.
This is an argument that seems to be the end of the conversation. It’s closer. It should be like Prime Minister Mariano Rivera coming out of the bullpen to shut your ass up.
Only I don’t understand it. This is baseball. Now this is the rule. It exists on other levels too. Sports evolve over time. There are still people who claim “this isn’t baseball” to use a designated hitter or have “rookies” on the mound or avoid runners throwing. But now it’s all baseball.
Every sport has different rules when regulation ends in a tie, so that the athletes—real people, not robots used for our twisted pleasure—are not overtired all night. And in the case of baseball, marathon extra games mean recovery drags on into the next night. And after that. And after that in some cases.
Preventing marathon games that ruin weeks ensures that the product will play at the highest level, both on a particular night and on the next few nights.
Against this, I saw this argument: “Well, how many games with 15 innings?”
It is implied that there were so few of them that this should not bother anyone. It’s an argument that’s easy to refute because the answer is: if the number of games that used to last this long were so few, how is that going to hurt you? lose them from the schedule?
I try my best not to be that guy and think everyone agrees with me, but I just can’t imagine anyone having fun sitting in, say, 13-16 innings where there are no baserunners.
Most of all, though, I keep coming back to how many people you lose throughout the game when it comes to extra innings. This is the decisive argument for me. Ultimately, this is the most important thing, and while many fans like to talk about how much they hate this rule, almost all of these people stop watching games in extra innings just to go to bed. Wouldn’t they rather, deep down, in places they don’t talk about at parties, just see the end of the game? Knowing who wins and who loses is the hallmark of watching any sporting event.
That’s why I’m in favor of the rule.