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Proposed Extra Innings Rule Would Have Made Game 7 Very Different

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Rob Manfred wants to mess with yet another fundamental baseball rule. (Hint: don’t.)

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Consider this scenario.

It’s Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, the Cubs and Indians are tied 6-6, the rain delay is over, and the teams are getting ready to play. Kyle Schwarber is the scheduled hitter.

But wait! Who’s that on the field? It’s a runner on second base. How did he get there?

If Rob Manfred has his way, that might become a rule change that MLB could adopt sometime in the future:

Major League Baseball plans on testing a rule change in the lowest levels of the minor leagues this season that automatically would place a runner on second base at the start of extra innings, a distinct break from the game’s orthodoxy that nonetheless has wide-ranging support at the highest levels of the league, sources familiar with the plan told Yahoo Sports.

A derivation of the rule has been used in international baseball for nearly a decade and will be implemented in the World Baseball Classic this spring. MLB’s desire to test it in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League and Arizona League this summer is part of an effort to understand its wide in-game consequences – and whether its implementation at higher levels, and even the major leagues, may be warranted.

I cannot tell you how much I hate this idea. It’s yet another misguided attempt to make baseball faster, or more relevant to young people, or something. It would change a fundamental way the game is played, in other words, you have to actually get a hit, or walk, or be hit by a pitch, or reach on an error or catcher interference to get on base, not just be placed there by rule of the commissioner or baseball executives who think games are too long:

“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.”

Well no, Joe, it’s not baseball. It’s like college football starting overtime sequences on the 25-yard line. I don’t know if college football fans like that or hate it, I don’t really follow college football that much. But it fundamentally changes the way the game is played.

But baseball has always been a game played to its full conclusion, no matter how long it takes. (Please note that I have always been consistent in noting that if a game goes into extra innings, any comments I have about its length are moot.) If that’s 10 innings, as in Game 7, great. If it’s 16 innings and lasts till 1:30 in the morning — well, that’s all part of what makes baseball a great game, and John Baker became a part of Cubs lore for all time because of that game, and why would you want to take that away?

I certainly wouldn’t.

This, as is the intentional walk proposal, another “kill a fly with an elephant gun” idea. There were 36 games last year of 13 innings or more. That’s 1.5 percent of all games. And for that MLB wants to rip apart one of the fundamental bedrocks of baseball and make it like T-ball? No thanks. You might as well state that baseball will play all extra-inning games to 12 innings and then decide it with a home run derby.

Please note I am absolutely not serious about that last comment and implore the commissioner’s office to ignore it.

But seriously, this is a seriously bad idea that should never see the light of day. To possibly eliminate a handful of position players pitching, something that gets fans talking about baseball and is fun, given its infrequency?

MLB seems to have no idea how to promote itself or have a pulse on what its fans really want. In addition to long extra-inning games being fun and a conversation topic, MLB should be promoting young stars like Javier Baez and Francisco Lindor, who were so much fun to watch during the World Series, and getting its lawyers to stop harassing fans who are sharing video on social media. That’s free promotion for your sport — why would MLB not want that?

And I would never want a rule in place that would have taken away a lot of the excitement of Game 7. Just look at Ben Zobrist’s expression in the photo above, taken after his 10th-inning double in Game 7.

Rob Manfred and Joe Torre, a question: Why would you not want that?