Last Sunday, the Yankees and Cubs played the third and final game of their inter-league series at Wrigley Field. It ended at 2:10 AM Eastern Time. The game started at 8:05 PM ET, and had gone into the 18th inning, prompting conversations, regarding the adjustment of rules during extra innings. I’m not a big fan of rule changes, I like the game how it is, and I understand that the league wants to speed up games, just not why they need to change the way the game is played in to do so. I stayed up for the whole game, I watched the pre-game and post-game shows and yeah, I was exhausted, but at least the rules didn’t bend to get the game over with.
One idea, to speed up extra inning play was tested in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) this past March. Starting in the 11th inning, runners would start on first and second base, with nobody out. This means that a single wins the game, and the game is bound to end in that inning. I don’t like this rule because it makes it too easy to win a game. Most strategy gets thrown out the window, pitching changes are going to be made batter to batter, so a team makes sure they have the right matchup, and all the defense can hope for is a big strike out, or a double play ball, because other than that, teams won’t know how to navigate this situation.
In the 18-inning game, I mentioned earlier, if the Cubs had put the first two runners on base and Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo, were hitting with nobody out, the Yankees would have been done. They would have exhausted their bullpen too, presumably bringing in the lefty specialist Tommy Layne to face Schwarber, then throwing righty Tyler Clippard against Bryant and having another lefty, Chasen Shreve face Rizzo, assuming that both Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman, have been used in prior innings. A little dinky ground ball that sneaks through the five-and-a-half hole, between the shortstop and third baseman, from the pinch-hitting backup catcher ends the game. That makes it a little too easy.
Another issue I have with this is that a double steal could put runners at 2nd and 3rd with nobody out. Or a wild pitch that kicks of the catcher, and into the dugout or out of play, ends the game as the runners get two bases and the man on 2nd scores. I think the biggest problem for me is the inning starts with runners on base who don’t deserve to be there. I’d much rather see a bunt single, an error moving the runner to 2nd, a bunt single moving the runner to 3rd and a groundout scoring the runner which is exactly what happened.
The reason I’m not proposing an alternative solution to speeding up pace-of-play in extra innings is that I don’t think any problem needs solving. I loved every minute of that 18-inning game. The game wouldn’t have been as exciting if the rule change had been implemented. The game is fine the way it is, I understand limiting mound visits, pitching changes, a pitch-clock (that does nothing by the way) and limiting challenges, but the game is fine the way it is. All I want to do is watch baseball, just the way it is.
How do you think the game needs to change? What can be done to speed up the game without changing traditional baseball rules, that have been in place for over a century?