It’s becoming an MLB offseason tradition that league higher-ups float a radical proposal (banning shifts, limiting pitching changes, eliminating intentional walks, etc.), prompting a flurry of outrage and argument about the merits of the potential change.
And at the risk of again wasting our time by evaluating a proposal that will never actually happen in MLB, we’re here to tell you about a bizarre rule change, cosigned by Joe Torre, that is being instituted in the lower minor leagues.
According to Yahoo’s Jeff Passan, MLB will test a rule that automatically places a runner on second base to start every inning from the 10th on. The rule will be in place at this spring’s World Baseball Classic and possibly in the upcoming seasons of the Gulf Coast League and Arizona League.
Via Yahoo, here what Torre had to say:
“Let’s see what it looks like,” said Joe Torre, the longtime major league manager who’s now MLB’s Chief Baseball Officer and a strong proponent of the testing. “It’s not fun to watch when you go through your whole pitching staff and wind up bringing a utility infielder in to pitch. As much as it’s nice to talk about being at an 18-inning game, it takes time.
“It’s baseball. I’m just trying to get back to that, where this is the game that people come to watch. It doesn’t mean you’re going to score. You’re just trying to play baseball.”
This is a pretty absurd idea. It’s designed to make games quicker and more exciting, but unlike the numerous changes that could spice up the action without fundamentally altering it, this one cuts against the essence of the game. It dictates that the rules in extra innings should be explicitly different from those during the first nine innings. That’s a silly concept in college football, where teams start at the 25-yard-line in overtime, it’s silly in soccer, where penalty kicks sometimes determine outcomes, and it’d be silly in baseball.
Luckily for right-thinking baseball fans, runners starting extra innings on second base is highly, highly unlikely to happen anytime soon. Baseball, with its powerful traditionalist ethos, is always slow to change, and we’d likely get years of vigorous debate before this rule became reality. And if early returns on Twitter are any indication, this proposal is not particularly popular.
If this rule change does go into effect, it could be the most dramatic gameplay change since the American League adopted the designated hitter in 1973. But you can bet we’re a long way away from that.