By Dan Hiner
I’ve always prided myself in being a baseball fan. As a baseball purist, there’s nothing more exciting than seeing a well-pitched game or a perfectly executed hit-and-run.
That’s why the recent news of Major League Baseball looking into changes in its extra innings rules may be the most disappointing change to the game in recent years.
In an attempt to decrease the lengths of games, MLB announced that a proposal has been made to start all extra innings with a runner on second base.
While baseball games have run longer, the change undermines the sports core concepts — hit the ball, get on base and score.
As one Jambar staffer put it, “it’s like bowling with bumpers.” The chance of scoring is significantly higher and the major obstacle, the pitcher, is completely taken out of the equation.
Joe Torre, MLB’s chief baseball officer, said he was in support of the rule change because it shortens the lengths of games and adds more excitement.
But what part of extra innings isn’t exciting to a baseball fan?
One mistake or one great hit could change the entire outcome of the game. Sure, you might get a 19-inning game from time to time, but that’s rare.
According to a NBC Sports article published on Feb. 8, there were 189 extra-inning games last season. Of those 189, only 14 lasted more than 14 innings (7 percent).
That means of the 2,430 games played last year, roughly 0.006 percent of the games even reached 14 innings.
So by that logic, the feared 20-inning game really isn’t common enough to change the rules. And even if they were more common, that’s just part of the game.
The second argument in favor of the change was in response to the health of the pitchers. While pitchers have been more fatigued due to extra innings, usually teams don’t run out of pitchers.
Occasionally we see the random position player step on the mound for the first time since high school, but that usually makes headlines.
Last year, ESPN started its broadcasts with games that featured position players pitching. It adds excitement to the game and adds a story no one would have thought about.
Starting with a runner already in scoring position, in my eyes, weakens the perception of the league. It’s all a stunt to attract more people who don’t have an attention span to actually sit down and watch a game.
This is no different than seeing the NFL increase pass interference calls or the NBA favor star athletes. It’s merely for publicity, which is confusing because baseball usually headlines most major media outlets from April through October.
If baseball is concerned about the dreaded never-ending game, they have nothing to fear. And if MLB is concerned about the health of its pitchers, then add more players to a regular season roster.
MLB rosters consist of 25 players for most of the regular season, and after Sept. 1, the roster expands to 40 players — most of which have to be named eligible for the MLB roster by the beginning of the season.
So if health is the biggest concern, expand the roster to 30 players. A team can add additional pitching, and if it doesn’t and its pitchers become fatigued, then that’s on the team’s manager.
In the end, MLB doesn’t need to completely change the game when a more reasonable answer is already listed in every team’s spring training requirements.