With all of the talk surrounding "pace of play," there was one rulethis offseason that raised a lot of eyebrows. It was the rule that extra innings would begin with a runner on second base. Now, with baseball fans being a notoriously curmudgeony bunch, this rule created a lot of blow-back to the powers that implemented it -- specifically people fearing that the rule would be implemented in the pros -- and commissioner Robert Manfred didn't do much to assuage the outrage.
"In rookie ball, where crowds are small and games are really developmental, starting the 10th inning with a runner on base makes sense, because there's really no developmental reason to play 18 innings and end with the shortstop pitching," he said at Grapefruit League Media Day in February, via MLB.com. "And who knows? If we remain open-minded, we may learn something from this experiment that's helpful moving forward."
Well, the easy answer here is let teams tie in the Minor Leagues. The real issue here is that it does speed up the game, but in a very artificial way. There were those that were harboring a fear that this rule would eventually make it to the MLB, but Manfred finally (kind of) shot those fears down on ESPN's "Golic and Wingo" on Thursday.
"Let me start with the headline: I don't see this as a rule that we're gonna bring to Major League Baseball," he said of the baserunner on second rule. "It is a rule that is actually used routinely in international baseball play. We used it during the [World Baseball Classic]. And I saw it a couple of times during the WBC and it's pretty exciting." Manfred then reiterated his stance on the Minor Leagues being developmental, mentioning the rule keeping pitch counts down -- the same as his stance in February. He also mentioned that Minor League teams supported the change.
"So good experiment -- One that probably is not Major League worthy," he concluded.
So sleep in peace, MLB fans. You won't have to watch every 10th inning for eternity begin with a bunt from now on.
Manfred also reiterated his support of the pitch clock in the beginning of the interview, saying that because of the MLB's strained relationship with the MLBPA at the moment it didn't feel like the right time to implement such a drastic change.
"I think labor relationships are long-term relationships," he said. "And just like in any long-term relationships you have bumps in the road where you have issues that you don't see the same way. We believe we have a fundamentally sound relationship with the MLBPA -- we've got four more years under the current basic agreement. And frankly the way I handled the pitch clock was out of deference to our labor relationship. It was right to put it in, I remain a believer of the pitch clock. I just thought that given the atmosphere surrounding the free agent market it was a mistake -- It doesn't mean I'm less interested in putting it in over the long haul.
If you're wondering why the MLB backed down, that whole dead free agent market affected a lot more than the fans' interest in the offseason. It literally staved off rules. The pace of play is fine crowd may have gotten its way this offseason, but Manfred at least seems interested in adding a pitch clock down the road.