Extra Runners in Extra Innings?

Evan Woo '22

One of the MLB’s most controversial rules will be back in 2021.  Recently, it was announced that the MLB and the MLBPA agreed to once again start all extra innings with a runner on second base [1].  The rule, introduced last year to prevent long games in a schedule that was jam-packed due to the delay from the pandemic, sparked much debate from players and fans alike.  

Many fans felt that it artificially brought games to an end when neither team had earned a victory, and many pitchers voiced their displeasure with the fact that they would be essentially set up to fail in extra innings through no fault of their own.  Others thought it would result in mundane endings to exciting games, with bunts and sac flies enough to steal a win.  In Spring Training 2020, numerous Yankees pitchers commented on the situation.  Said reliever Chad Green, “I don’t know who wants to pitch with a runner on second with nobody out in an extra inning game.  It’s not something that you necessarily look forward to when you’re about to run out there.”  Adam Ottavino put it bluntly.  “It’s just not real baseball.” [2]  Despite the rules unpopularity, the league went forward with it as part of their “2020 only” rule changes .

For those opposed to the rule, their nagging suspicion about the rule appears to have come true – presenting the rule as a 2020 only exception was just a way to introduce it to the game.  However, in 2020 the rule served its intended purpose surprisingly well.  92 percent of extra inning games in 2020 ended by the end of the second extra inning, compared to 69 percent in 2018-2019 [3].  Because of its effectiveness in keeping games to a reasonable length, some around the league who were initially opposed warmed up to the rule.  Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who had mixed feelings on the rule going into the season, said afterward that he sees how “it could still be a benefit going forward.” [3]  Diamondbacks catcher Stephen Vogt explained that he sees the rule as a necessity for keeping games short in a world where Covid can upend the schedule and result in lost off days later on down the road.  “I would love to get back to traditional baseball ASAP, but I like them for the 2021 season”, he explained, continuing the familiar mantra of “it’s just one season”[4].  Whether the rule survives the 2022 collective bargaining agreement remains to be seen, but like it or not, it will be a part of the game in 2021.







[3] https://www.truebluela.com/2021/2/8/22273366/mlb-rule-extra-innings-second-base-doubleheaders-seven-innings