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Rob Manfred says fans like the placed runner in extra innings and it’s probably staying

NARRATOR: “He’s wrong about the fans.”

Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Before the World Series began last Friday, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred gave an interview in which most attention was focused on the Oakland A’s stadium situation. That’s a topic for another day, though, because I found this more interesting:

Oh, Rob. Oh, oh, Rob.

“I think overall the fans like it. I think it does bring sort of a focus to the end of the baseball game in a way that has been positively received.”

Could anyone sound any more lawyerly than that?

The clubs and players like it because it shortens the time they have to be at the ballpark. The players like it... presumably for the same reason, I guess. Baseball writers and broadcasters probably like it for similar reasons.

Fans, though? If you read the replies to Bob Nightengale’s tweet, you’ll see a couple from fans who claim to like it, but most of the replies are like this one:

I have written about this before, but let me reiterate: This is a solution in search of a problem. Prior to 2020, when the placed runner (or heck, let’s just call it the Manfred man) began in the pandemic-shortened season, the total number of games that went into extra innings in general was about nine percent of all games. This varies a bit year to year, but long-term that number has been remarkably consistent.

So we’re talking about 14 games per year, per team. The Cubs played 19 extra-inning games in 2022 (7-12 record) and 13 in 2021 (6-7), so they’re slightly above that for the last two years, but overall, 8.9 percent of all games in both 2021 and 2022 went to extras (and that number is obviously unaffected by the Manfred man). Thus the league as a whole is still right on that nine percent mark.

It has been suggested by some that a compromise that might satisfy both those who supposedly like the Manfred man and those who don’t, would be to have “regular” baseball played through 12 innings, then use the runner in the 13th or later. My previous research has shown that the long-term average of games, 2019 or earlier, that went 13 innings or longer is about 1.5 percent, or two per team per year.

So why not do that? If bullpen fatigue is an issue, then allow any team that plays 13 innings or longer to add an extra reliever for its next game without a corresponding roster move.

We are in a postseason where we have had two very long and compelling extra-inning games, the 15-inning walkoff by the Guardians over the Rays in the Wild Card round, and the 18-inning Astros win over the Mariners in the division series. Games that long, in my view, are not only compelling and fun, but they get people talking about baseball — and they are rare enough that having one or two a year shouldn’t be too taxing on MLB rosters. In the 10 years before the pandemic brought on the Manfred man, the Cubs played 24 games of 13 innings or longer, just a bit more than two per season. Of those, only 11 — fewer than half — went longer than 13 innings.

Here’s a guy who has an opinion on this and who is a pretty polarizing figure around here:

So now I ask you, the fan, to weigh in, because Rob Manfred claims you like the “man” named after him who goes out to second base in extra innings. Do you like it? I am one of those saying, “No.”


MLB games that go to the 10th inning tied should be...

This poll is closed

  • 50%
    ... played to their conclusion using regular baseball rules (no Manfred man)
    (262 votes)
  • 19%
    ... played using the Manfred man in the 10th inning, as has been the case since 2020
    (101 votes)
  • 27%
    ... played using the Manfred man, but only after 12 innings using regular baseball rules
    (142 votes)
  • 1%
    Something else (leave in comments)
    (10 votes)
515 votes total Vote Now