Minor league baseball has been the testing ground for a lot of commissioner Rob Manfred’s crusade against baseball games taking as long as they need to take and the latest round of rules announced are particularly radical.
Major pace-of-play rule changes for the minor leagues including starting extra innings with a runner on second base. Details: pic.twitter.com/9ws68Oywp8— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) March 14, 2018
Of course, as we know, baseball isn’t hip with the youth these days apparently because games take longer than the extended cut of a summer blockbuster (or maybe it’s because MLB markets itself so poorly that half the sporting world couldn’t pick Mike Trout out of a lineup but insert Kermit sippin’ some Lipton here), so the answer has been to tinker with ways to shave a couple of minutes off the game that was made to never answer to time.
The latest set of rules for all levels of the minor leagues will see a runner reach second base via a phantom error at the beginning of the tenth inning for each frame onward. This is designed to hurry along by granting a runner in scoring position before a team takes its first cuts in extras.
So, sure, preserving the integrity of the outcome of minor league games isn’t really a big deal when you consider the whole point of minor league baseball is developing players while hopefully keeping them healthy. Fewer long extra inning affairs will presumably help players with the sometimes weeks long fatigue that follows.
There’s also the fact that it probably isn’t pleasant for players in the minors to be at the park until 1 in the morning playing an 18 inning game when they’ve got their five-to-a-room apartments with a jar of peanut butter to share waiting for them after a few hours of unpaid overtime.
For the minors, it makes a smidge of sense — and probably also cents. The concern is this is the latest experiment that is being tried out as an audition for the big leagues.
First there was the pitch clock that came a couple of years back which gives a pitcher 15 seconds to begin their windup after each pitch. That change first debuted in the Arizona League and expanded to all minor leagues before Manfred attempted to install the rule in the Major Leagues for this season.
After pushback from the Players’ Association, MLB compromised and implemented changes to how many mound visits a team can deploy each game. Those mound visit rules will be making their way to the minor leagues as well this season and the pitch clock is expected to get promoted to the big leagues as soon as next season.
Similarly, the ghost runner rule was experimented with in the rookie leagues and even the World Baseball Classic last year and will now expand to include all of minor league baseball for 2018. Almost assuredly, MLB is next.
While folks have been talking about the ramifications of long extra inning games more and more over the last few years, granting a free runner just so everyone can go home seems like a very anti-baseball solution. After all, the whole point of baseball is trying desperately to reach base. Baseball isn’t being granted a couple of bases for no reason other than the guy currently in charge is worried that the game isn’t appealing enough.