Second opinion: 'Extra' looks at new rule

Players, front office execs, farm directors weigh in on big change

At all levels of the Minor Leagues, extra innings will begin with a runner on second base. (Jared Ravich/MiLB.com)

By Benjamin Hill / MiLB.com | March 23, 2018 10:00 AM ET

On March 14, Minor League Baseball unveiled a new set of pace-of-play rules and procedures. One of them garnered a lot of attention since it marked a distinct shift from the way that the game has always been played. 

"At all levels of Minor League Baseball, extra innings will begin with a runner on second base."  

Why would extra frames begin with a runner on second? Minor League Baseball stated it aims to "reduce the number of pitchers used in extra innings and the issues created by extra-innings games, including, but not limitied to, shortages of pitchers in the days to follow, the use of position players as pitchers and the transferring of players between affiliates due to pitching shortages caused by extra-innings games."

Whatever the motivation, the new rule immediately generated an avalanche of incredulous, if not downright negative, fan-driven social media conversation. But what do those within Minor League Baseball think about it? To answer that question, MiLB.com's Sam Dykstra, Ben Hill, Josh Jackson and Tyler Maun surveyed individuals working at a number of different positions within Minor League Baseball's vast ecosystem. Their perspectives varied, but taken as a whole seem to suggest those within the game have more quickly embraced the rule than those outside of it.  

Player development staff

"I have full trust in the people in the Commissioner's Office to enforce this and see what's happening. I don't think it's something that they're going to thrust upon the country willy-nilly. The worst day of a farm director's year is the 17-inning game. You have guys that are generally on work limits. Some of these guys are the youngest players playing in what are, at times, career-altering moments. Nobody wants a position player throwing four innings. No one wants a kid stretching beyond what he's safe to do. I think people will like this. There is a fun element of strategy and explosiveness to it. For us, in terms of addressing the arm health issue, I think this is really more a player safety and arm care issue than it is pace of play." -- Jeff Graupe, Cincinnati Reds director of player development

"We had it in complex [Gulf Coast and Arizona League] baseball last year, and I didn't mind it. Now, obviously it's climbing up towards the Major Leagues. At the Major League level, I'm still fairly skeptical of this. And I'm skeptical of bringing it to the Minor Leagues, however, I'm a huge fan of executing situational baseball. We're big believers of that in this organization. We certainly believe that to be successful at the Major League level, you need to be hugely successful at scoring runs from second base. What a great opportunity to have a chance at that every single night, when it comes to extra innings. Obviously, it will add a little bit of excitement, I would like to think, for the fans that may be there. In terms of run expectancy and those types of numbers, I think this will be a test -- whether we're going to lay a bunt down here to get a guy over or we're going to take our swings and try to score him from second base. From that aspect, I'm excited to see how this plays out." -- Chris Getz, Chicago White Sox director of player development

"There's been times where we have needs at the Major League level the next day and we just played a 17-inning game at Triple-A. That creates real problems and problems that are unfair to the Major League team more than anything else. First and foremost, that's what we worry about and that's what's important, but from an injury standpoint, it is a saver. It's a game-saver. ... I'm not sure that I would've done it exactly the way it turned out, but I can tell you that there's going to be a lot less worrying for me to do, and that is a definite positive." -- Zach Wilson, Colorado Rockies farm director

"Clearly this is something to deal with games that go into a lot of innings and cause teams to get in some jams here and there. From a player-development standpoint, this is supposed to make that easier. We'll roll with it. ... It's not really anything we're going to spend significant time on. A runner on second with no outs, that's a situation we work on in drills anyways in terms of how to work cutoffs, relays, how to attack as pitchers. I think some of our managers are kicking around their own plans, and we'll talk some about how to approach it as an organization. But it's not something we'll have a whole big plan for." -- Dave Littlefield, Tigers vice president of player development

"We'll have to play within the confines of the rules and understand how to execute. From a pitching standpoint, we're going to have to work on how to handle that type of situation with runners on. We'll have to practice it here, and it'll be part of our program to work on these situations. Not just in Spring Training but as part of our fundamentals going forward." -- Mark Scialabba, Washington Nationals director of player development


Fernando Tatis Jr., Joey Lucchesi, Erick Fedde and Blake Rutherford weigh in.

Players

"It's going to be weird. The games are going to be shorter. They're going to take a little part of the emotion [out], but that's the new rule. I don't like it so far, but it is what it is." -- Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres infielder, No. 8 overall prospect.  

"Mixed feelings, I guess. Everyone in the Minor Leagues is there to get to the big leagues, more than to win games in the Minor Leagues. I guess I don't mind in the sense that they're trying to shorten it, so we don't get guys hurt playing 20-inning games and all the pitching gets stuck behind for the next week. ... The team can definitely tell. Some of us are thinking, 'Oh man, if I'm starting the next day, I've got to go seven or eight innings to save the bullpen.' It's one of those things you're never happy with, but it's part of the game.

[Starting with a runner on second is] going to be completely different. I did it international play when I was in college. We played that system, and it changes the game completely with bunts and how people are going to play that. You've just got to be super-aggressive and try to punch guys out. It's going to be interesting. It's really hard to say to see how it'll play out. -- Erick Fedde, RHP, Nationals No. 4 prospect. 

"End it in nine -- let's try to win it. You've just got to compete. You can't do anything about it. You can't complain." -- Joey Lucchesi, LHP, Padres No. 9 prospect. 

"[It's] going to take a little bit of the flair out of the whole extra-inning thing, but whatever's best for the game I'm all for. I guess that's their decision, and there's nothing we can really do or say about it, so it's whatever's best for baseball." -- Blake Rutherford, outfielder, White Sox No. 7 prospect. 

Minor League Baseball front-office staff

"As someone whose first-ever game working in baseball went to 21 innings, I'm very much OK with this change. Not only are the health of pitchers' arms in question, but from the front-office perspective, there are a lot of positives to increasing the pace of play in extra innings and overall -- city curfews, fireworks, weather, employee morale, fan egress, etc." -- Erin O'Donnell, Birmingham Barons vice president of marketing

Offseason MiLB include

"In our office, it was met with mixed emotions. Some of the most memorable times at the ballpark are the 17-inning games that seemingly come prior to a day game or at the tail end of a nine-game home stand. 

From an activation standpoint, we have immediately begun to have some good conversations with some partners about leveraging the 'Extra Innings' element with a runner starting at 'second base/ halfway home.'" -- Ryan Keur, Daytona Tortugas president

"Younger workers in the office -- and spouses and families outside the office -- are treating it with cautious optimism that maybe we'll get home earlier now. We generally understand the sentiment, especially dealing with things like seven-inning games whenever we host a doubleheader. While I've sat through a frigid April 18-inning game before, that's the exception and not the rule. Running extra promotions at that point becomes challenging, but it's often those weird, creative, off-the-cuff things like staff danceoffs and infinite t-shirt tosses that become a welcome distraction from the completely inert baseball game being played." -- Chris Rogers, Bowie Baysox promotions manager

"This certainly should end games a little earlier, which three-and-a-half hours into the seventh game of a homestand, will be nice. You go to the 10th inning of a game on a Wednesday in April. and before you know it, there's 30 fans in the seats and I've got a dozen [cleanup crew] people waiting for them to leave so they can start picking up empty popcorn boxes. When you've been at the ballpark for 14 hours and you're looking at extra innings, a guy standing on second ain't a bad look. At this level, with the idea that the player development comes before winning and losing, it makes sense." -- Philip Guiry, Charleston RiverDogs director of operations

"If a game could be played for 18 innings without any negative repercussions, that would be fine with me. The fact of the matter, unfortunately, is that there are repercussions. We're learning the proper ways to take care of a pitcher's arm health. Cutting down on extra innings to save a staff will matter in the long run. I would not mind if they did away with all extra innings entirely. Pitching arm health is too important. ... I am also in favor of an automated strike zone in the Minor Leagues, but that's neither here nor there." -- Jesse Goldberg-Strassler, Lansing Lugnuts broadcaster

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz. Sam Dykstra, Tyler Maun and Josh Jackson all contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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