Earlier in the week our own Caitlin Rogers posted this week’s Fanpost Friday prompt: What moment in franchise history would you go back and change? Then later in the week, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan reported that MLB was considering a rule change in its efforts to shorten games.
Major League Baseball plans on testing a rule change in the lowest levels of the minor leagues this season that automatically would place a runner on second base at the start of extra innings
Inspired by Greg Kirkland and Andrew Mearns, I took a look at a moment in franchise history that I wouldn’t necessarily change but would be altered greatly if that rule were in place. The game that made Aaron Boone a Yankee hero, Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.
Roger Clemens did not bring his “A-game” to this game, giving up four runs before being removed from the game in the fourth inning. Down 4-0, the Yankees needed heroes and a prayer and that’s exactly what they got. Mike Mussina came in relief for the first time in his career and settled things down. Down 5-2 in the eighth, Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Hideki Matsui, and Jorge Posada all stepped up in a big way and the score was tied 5-5. No one else scored that inning, and the ninth was scoreless as well from both teams sending the game to extras at 5-5.
Mariano Rivera, who came in and pitched a scoreless ninth, pitched a scoreless 10th while Tim Wakefield did the same in the bottom of the 10th. Rivera came back out for his third inning of work and pitched a clean 1-2-3 11th inning. Wakefield came out for his second inning, but the game ended with the first batter he faced in the 11th inning.
Now let’s rewind it back a bit. Imagine this scenario: the ninth ends in a 5-5 tie and now Mariano Rivera is trotting to the mound to get ready to pitch the 10th inning. The inning hasn’t started yet, but there’s a player in a Red Sox uniform running out to second base.
While MLB hasn’t explicitly said how the rule would play out, my guess would be that the player in the lineup right before the person at-bat would be the player going to second base. Nomar Garciaparra led off the 10th for Boston, so that would put second baseman Todd Walker at second. While there are a bunch of different “what if” scenarios that could’ve played out, if everything else remained the same about the game, nothing would’ve been the same.
Rivera got Garciaparra to strikeout to start the 10th that night, so in our story Walker would’ve stayed put at second base. Next up, Manny Ramirez hits a groundball to second base, after checking Walker and keeping him from running, Alfonso Soriano throws to Nick Johnson and Ramirez is out. Next? David Ortiz. Because of course it’s Ortiz.
What does Ortiz do? Like the nuisance that he is, he hits a double to left field. In the real version of history, Gabe Kapler ran for Ortiz but didn’t score because Kevin Millar popped up to short to end the inning still tied. But in this alternate history? Walker likely comes around to score and gives the Red Sox a 6-5 lead. Wakefield comes in and gets Matsui, Posada, and Jason Giambi all out and the Red Sox dugout explodes onto the field and celebrates making it to the World Series. Fortunately, that’s not what happened. Boone got a chance to come in and become a part of Yankees history.
If MLB’s rule change were in place, there’s a very good chance we’d never get to have that feeling. Boston would likely have gone on to win the game and the series in the 10th inning and I wouldn’t be able to repeatedly watch a highlight that took down our biggest rival. Instead of talking about Boone’s place in Yankees history, he’d just be some guy who got hurt playing basketball and caused the Yankees to get Alex Rodriguez.
The rule is actually not new to baseball but would be new to MLB. The rule has been in place in some international leagues for about a decade, but MLB is now curious to see the effects of that rule in their own league as something they could potentially bring to fruition. Joe Torre is strongly supporting this initiative because of how long extra inning games take and how tiring it can be on a pitching staff.
“It’s not fun to watch when you go through your whole pitching staff and wind up bringing a utility infielder in to pitch. As much as it’s nice to talk about being at an 18-inning game, it takes time.”
Funnily enough, position players pitching are honestly one of the only good things about extra innings. But the problem with baseball isn’t extra innings, it’s the first nine innings. MLB should be looking into fixing that and making those go quicker before looking at the parts of games that aren’t guaranteed to happen. Especially the long 18-inning games that Torre is referring to, those don’t happen that often.
I’m sure this rule works well in the international league where they’ve had it in place for a long time, and it could even work in the minors. I could even see something where they can implement that rule in the regular season, but eliminate that runner in the postseason similarly to how the NHL handles overtime/shootouts. In the grand scheme though, it seems like MLB is trying to put duct tape on a piece of broken glass. Sure it accomplishes something, but it doesn’t actually solve the problem.
SBNation’s Grant Brisbee puts it best: “In the WBC? Super. In the GCL? Makes perfect sense. In the majors, though, it’s overthinking a problem that doesn’t exist.”
*Play-by-play provided courtesy of Baseball Reference