Moore: In shortened season, baseball should experiment for the future
Twenty years ago I covered a 19-inning baseball game at Safeco Field that Mike Cameron won with a walk-off home run. After the Mariners beat the Red Sox 5-4 in 5 hours and 34 minutes, in a game that ended at 12:39 a.m., I saw Dave Niehaus in the home team’s clubhouse.
“Wasn’t that a great game!” Niehaus exclaimed. “I didn’t want it to end.”
I’m picturing Dave Niehaus and the look on his face today if he heard that extra innings will start with a runner on second in an effort to shorten games and save pitching arms during this 60-game season. I’m guessing he would have had a frown from ear to ear and called the new rule “Mickey Mouse.”
I’m not a big fan of it either. And as Danny O’Neil pointed out Wednesday morning, how many times will we watch teams bunt or hit a grounder to the right side of the infield to move the runner to third? How many games will be won with a sacrifice fly? How many times will we see teams, in that situation, intentionally walk the next two batters to load the bases and set up a potentially inning-ending double play?
We will also see the designated hitter with all teams this season, including the National League, where there are still diehards like “el Hombre” Michael Bradley who believe that it takes away from the strategy when guys who can actually hit are in the batter’s box as opposed to those who can’t, like pitchers.
Pitchers are in the big leagues because of their ability to pitch. I don’t want to watch them hit, or check that, TRY to hit and fail miserably. I always feel bad for the eighth guy in a National League order. How many good pitches is he going to see? And if he does walk, how exciting is it to watch the pitcher lay down a bunt, even with one out, to move him on to second?
You want more fun in baseball? Make this DH change for both leagues permanent. More runs will make it more entertaining for most fans, presumably younger ones who will help to rebuild the sports waning popularity. Even with the DH, you’ll get your share of pitching duels to satisfy the old schoolers like me.
And even though I don’t like placing a runner at second base in extra innings, MLB owners should consider keeping that rule too. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll keep complaining about it, saying stuff about it wrecking the integrity of the game or something else along those lines.
But I’m in my 60’s. I’m still going to watch baseball games even if they start extra innings by putting runners on every base. And actually, come to think of it, that might be kind of fun. Bases loaded, no outs, you’ll get all kinds of crooked numbers, and even a four-run lead going into the bottom of the 10th won’t be insurmountable.
If “Mickey Mouse” rules make the game more appealing to younger fans, by all means go for it. If attention spans aren’t what they used to be, it’s fine by me if baseball makes every attempt to shorten games.
According to Jayson Stark of The Athletic, since the minor leagues adopted the runner at second base rule, extra-inning games went from ending 45 percent of the time in the 10th to 73 percent of the time.
And since this is an experimental season of sorts, why not start the games at 6 p.m. instead of 7 p.m.? See how that works and see if it’s something you’d like to incorporate when fans return next year.
At this point, count me in for just about anything on a trial basis, and baseball should feel that way too.
More from Moore: Why M’s could make the playoffs in shortened 2020 season