MLB owners met in Palm Beach, Florida earlier this week and discussed quite a number of topics, including RSN broadcasts from Sinclair that are in jeopardy due to Diamond Broadcasting possibly filing for bankruptcy, stadium situations in Tampa Bay and Oakland and revenue disparity in baseball.
While those are all important topics, the one I want to highlight here is Commissioner Rob Manfred’s reply when he was asked about the “zombie runner” rule in extra innings:
“The clubs discussed the permanence of that rule. It’s got to go back to the on-field committee,” Manfred said. “Clubs have gotten used to the extra-innings rule. I think it’s generally well-liked by players. I don’t bet on anything, but if you were going to make a bet, it think it’s a pretty good bet it’s going to continue.”
So, there’s still a chance that the rules committee will see the folly of this rule and dump it. I understand the reason it was created during the pandemic 2020 season, but now that life and baseball are more or less back to normal, there’s little reason for it to continue.
Granted that having this rule shortens games, I still believe it cheapens the game as well. Over the last two full seasons there have been just nine games of 13 innings or more, and just two (one of 15 and one of 16) have gone longer than 13. The Cubs have been involved in just one of these, June 10, 2022 against the Yankees. (They lost in 13.)
The thing is, this isn’t really more than baseball averaged pre-2020 in the number of games that lasted 13 innings or more. The long-term average for such things is about 30 per year, or around one per team per year, 1.5 percent of all games.
Is it worth having this rule just to reduce that 1.5 percent to about 0.25 percent? I’d say no.
I could, however, live with the following compromise: Play “normal” baseball — without the “zombie runner” — through 12 innings. Then, if the game is still tied, start the 13th with the extra runner on second base. As noted, that would probably happen about once per team per season.
Another thing that very long extra-inning games can do is wreak havoc on bullpens. Okay, in that case, allow any team that plays 13 innings or more to add a reliever for its next game without a corresponding roster move.
Here’s hoping the rules committee adopts one or both of the two suggestions made above.
What should MLB do with extra-inning games?
This poll is closed
Play regular baseball throughout, as was the case in 2019 and earlier
Use the "zombie runner" on second base for all extra innings
Use the "zombie runner," but only after 12 innings of regular baseball
Something else (leave in comments)