By Steve Silverman
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The purists are up in arms at the thought of someone changing the rules of Major League Baseball.
Commissioner Rob Manfred is the guardian of his sport, and is constantly on the lookout to upgrade the product as well as make money for his owners.
There seems to be a significant difference between Manfred and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who appears to be in his position merely to make the owners more money this year than they made the year before. Manfred actually seems to care about the intrinsic value of his game.
One of the things that has concerned baseball executives and on-field managers and coaches are long extra-inning games. Not the games that go 10, 11 or 12 frames, but the ones that drag on for 15 or 18 and seemingly take forever to play.
There are a number of problems with these games that go beyond the length of time that it takes to complete them. One is the ruination factor when it comes to the pitching staff. Once it goes past the 12th inning, the bullpen often gets used up. If a manager does not want to impact his starting rotation, he will be forced to turn to some strong-armed non-pitcher to see if his team can survive. It’s often a farce.
My colleague, Brad Kallet, wrote about this earlier this week, and was up in arms at the thought of a recent proposal that would call for a major change. After the 10th inning, each team would start off with a runner on second base in an attempt to initate a rally that would break the logjam.
This is a likely scenario for the upcoming World Baseball Classic as well as the lower levels of the minor leagues. Brad’s a baseball purist, and therefore wants no part of this rule.
He says he understands that MLB would like to speed up games that often last four hours or more, but adds this kind of change has no business being considered.
He doesn’t use the word “abomination,” but I am guessing that’s just what he is thinking.
Most baseball purists are romantic, and they love the notion of a long extra-inning game with titanic warriors putting their bodies and souls on the line for that precious victory.
Let’s get real. There is nothing romantic or beautiful about games that slog on for inning after inning or hour after hour. Once the game is finally over, fans have a story to tell that is akin to a badge of courage.
“I was at the Mets-Dodgers game that went 18 innings,” they would say, and that’s currency in the battle for the best fan award.
It will hold until someone else in the group goes to a game that lasts even longer.
But it’s not worth it. Nobody goes to a baseball game hoping that it will stretch into tomorrow and beyond, and I give credit to Manfred and his people because they want this kind of travesty to come to an end.
Messing with the game? Hardly. If Major League Baseball were to adopt this kind of proposal and live with it, it would raise the excitement level and turn extra-inning games into much more exciting encounters.
Put the runner on second base, bunt him over to third and then let the chips fall where they may. Instead of a 16-inning game, it could be over in 11 or 12 innings.
Change is difficult for these purists to abide. The NFL is the most successful sports league in North America by a long shot, and it changes its rules on a regular basis. Bill Belichick did not like how automatic extra points had become, and suggested that extra points be lengthened to make it more challenging for kickers.
His proposal was adopted shortly after he brought it forward.
Not only has this brought excitement back to the point after touchdown, it has impacted Belichick’s Patriots perhaps more than any other team. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed an extra point in the 2015 AFC Championship game against Denver that opened the doors to a Broncos victory, and he also missed an extra point in this year’s Super Bowl that could have cost the Pats their miracle comeback if they had not been able to convert two two-point conversions in the fourth quarter.
The NHL used to see perhaps 15-25 percent of its regular-season games end in ties before adding overtime. When that wasn’t enough, it added the shootout, which many call a joke. The league eventually changed the overtime to a three-on-three skating game to cut down on shootouts and add to excitement.
Making this rule change in Major League Baseball is not a bastardization of the game. It’s a change that will add to the excitement, cut down on the length and save pitching staffs.
Who wants to see some random second baseman pitch in the 19th inning? That’s not what baseball is all about. Manfred is looking out for the game, and that’s just what he should do.
It’s time to keep an open mind and go along with changes that will make the game better.
By the way, I don’t see many of these individuals who are horrified by this development as purists. They sound more like closed-minded individuals who are caught up in their own romantic image of what baseball should be.
That image is false. It’s time to make this change and make the game better.
Please follow Steve on Twitter at @Profootballboy