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The rumored ninth inning rule change is a fun fantasy, but that’s where it should stay

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When the game’s on the line we know who we want at the plate, but we shouldn’t force it

MLB: New York Yankees-Workouts Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s the bottom of the ninth inning. The Yankees are down by one. Tyler Wade, Ronald Torreyes, and Jacoby Ellsbury are set to hit. How many times has a similar scenario happened and led to thoughts of, “if only __________ was up instead!” Well, one potential rule change that’s had, at the very least, a breath of life could change that.

Speaking on The Rich Eisen Show, host Rich Eisen recently shared to his audience the idea for a potential rule change that was shared by an “MLB executive,” whatever that means.

Essentially, if a team is down in the ninth inning, the manager could elect to send “whoever” he wants. This would supposedly be for the ninth inning only, not extra innings. Even if say Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, and Greg Bird just batted in the eighth inning and the Yankees were still down, Aaron Boone could send any combination of the three up to start the ninth.

Let me start by saying this: I do not support this at all. I’m not a baseball “traditionalist” by any means, I’m all for pace-of-play changes and finding ways to make the game better, faster, and shorter. This just doesn’t do any of that. It’s absurd that it was even discussed. Yes, everyone wants the Judges of the world to hit in the ninth instead of the Torreyeses (Torreyi?), but I also want to be paid millions of dollars to blog.

To borrow a line from Greg Kirkland, “Well, we all want things.”

I can’t imagine this rule ever actually comes to fruition. It’s probably not even worth discussing too much. Have you seen the Yankees’ roster, though? It’s actually kind of fun to dream about.

Aaron Boone has already said how much fun he’s had thinking of the lineup possibilities, I can’t imagine the kind of fun he would have if he gets to just keep trotting out his star sluggers. There are obviously caveats to this that we don’t know. Eisen does seem to imply that you’d pick a part of the lineup and it’d continue from there, but he also goes on to use the term “recreate the batting order” for extras, so we can just make up our own rules. I’m taking the limited description of “whoever” and running with it.

Let’s say Stanton leads off and hits a double, can Brett Gardner pinch run for him and then have Stanton come back to bat? Then if he gets on again, can Ellsbury pinch run for him and have Stanton bat for a third time in a row? Just have him keep going and let the world (or at least the part of the world that watches Olympic hockey and baseball) forget about TJ Oshie. There’s a new Oshie every night.

What if a player was taken out earlier in the game for pinch-running or defensive purposes? Can he come back into the game? Maybe Judge is playing in left field one day and then was taken out so Gardner could help on defense or run for him earlier than the ninth. I imagine they’d let Judge come back in to hit because “whoever,” but then what happens after that? Does Judge only get that at-bat or is he back in the game?

If the Yankees tie it up and the game goes to extras, does Aaron Boone get to draft a new lineup or does it just pick up where the game left in the eighth and we all just pretend the ninth inning never happened? If it’s the latter and someone like Sanchez was getting an off day, does he basically get to have two pinch-hit at-bats?

Again, we don’t know much about how the rule would actually look if it came to, but it’s fun to play with scenarios in our heads. That’s what’s fun about dreaming, and why it’s awesome to have a wild and creative imagination. That’s how the best stories get written. The world needs creativity and imagination, but sometimes that’s where it should stay.

Obviously Yankee fans love to see when the game is on the line and the best players are due up, but that moment shouldn’t be manufactured. I get that in other sports the best players get the ball with the game in the line, but that’s just not baseball. It’s not anything. It’s fake. It’s Hollywood.

Plus, we need moments from “random” folk heroes in order to tell their stories as well.