February 14, 2017
By Justin Lasher
Major League Baseball used to be able to proclaim and market itself as America’s favorite pastime. I am not so sure it can get away with it nowadays. I know personally, my viewership of the sport I grew up loving has dwindled drastically. I believe that the NFL and NBA has now put the MLB number three of America’s major four sports. In an effort to improve the popularity of its sport, the MLB has been exploring a number of possible rule changes to speed up the game and keep the attention of today’s sports fan. One of the recently discussed proposals and tests is to place a runner on second base at the start of extra innings. Surprisingly, this struck a nerve with me when I heard this story.
My gut reaction to this proposed rule change was complete disagreement. For many reasons, this change would ruin the sport of baseball. Viewership actually increases during extra inning games (both regular season and postseason games). People tune in and want to watch the high pressure situations. How will players respond? What will the managers do? Who will get the big hit? It doesn’t make sense to me to change an area of a game that has so much importance. Extra innings directly impact the outcome of the game, and placing a runner on 2nd base essentially is gifting teams a run. It is not a good idea.
Baseball has traditionally been a game of strategy. Managers get paid good money to be able to effectively manage their bullpen as well as their bench players. They are judged on their decisions of when to bring in a pinch hitter or a pinch runner. This rule change would completely take the strategy out of the game of baseball. It would take some pressure and decision making out of the game. Instead of figuring out when and how many pitchers to use in a given situation or should a pitch hitter be used, managers would essentially be more focused on moving the runner from 2nd to 3rd base and then depending on a sacrifice fly to score the “free” runner. In my opinion this would take the “magic” out of the game. There is something to be said about the element of surprise.
While I am not opposed to trying to shorten game times, I don’t believe changing how extra innings are played is the right decision. What are your thoughts on this proposed change? Are you in favor, or are you more like me, and are a baseball purist, who says leave things alone?