If there's Major League Baseball in 2021 — and that's a big if — they need to go back to extra innings as we've known them for over 150 years. Let's get that out of the way. Putting a runner on second base without him earning his way out there is a bastardization of the game and goes against the very fiber of the sport.
But dammit, for one year where everything is weird and we're drawing it up as we go, the new wrinkle is enjoyable. It is not, as myself and other purists may have believed, a signal that Western Civilization is collapsing. See, we've already seen plenty of those from the non-baseball category.
The early returns on the experimental rule are very good. It is serving its purpose in eliminating marathon games that nuke bullpens. Only two extra-inning contests have made it to the 11th. Last night's Dodgers-Astros tilt lasted until the 13th before a leadoff, walk-off two-run homer — the first in Major League history.
It's helpful to look back at what the concerns were just a few weeks ago. The primary one was that it wouldn't really be baseball. And you know, that may be true. It's certainly new baseball. Yet one could make the argument that with the runner comes an influx of strategy. It's been an absolute joy to watch managers negotiate the situation. There are so many different ways to play it.
Bunt the guy over to third. Let your leadoff man swing away. Game it out so the other side can't intentionally walk your best hitter. There's plenty to sink one's teeth into. It is far more exciting than watching sides go down in order as the hour gets later and the pitching gets thinner.
So there you have it. I was wrong. The new rule is fine. Perhaps more than fine. Perhaps an integral part of the sport's future. Whatever.
For all the rough patches baseball has dealt with recently, it's great to feel like something positive is happening. There's a chance that this unorthodox year be just what the doctor ordered. Having the ability to try things out and pick and choose what works is a tremendous gift.