Staff Debates: Baseball’s New Rule Changes

Should MLB be pushing to amend the extra-innings and doubleheader rules?

DENVER, COLORADO - JULY 12: Commissioner of Baseball Robert D. Manfred Jr. speaks during a press conference announcing a partnership with the Players Alliance during the Gatorade All-Star Workout Day at Coors Field on July 12, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

It’s been a chaotic last week for baseball. Actually, I’d argue it’s been a chaotic year for baseball. Actually, hold on, it’s been a chaotic year for everything.

But still, here at Just Baseball, we embrace the chaos. Lately, there’s been a lot of talk revolving around the legalities and design of Major League Baseball. Everything from the Minor League system, to whether or not the Dodgers’ Super Team is ruining competitive balance (as a Padres fan, I say they are!), and even new rule changes; it’s a tumultuous time, to be sure, and with the upcoming CBA negotiations and Hall of Fame voting later this year, it should only continue.

For this particular article, though, we’re going to focus on just one of those points: rule changes. Joining me for this debate is another staff member, Kendell McKee — collectibles guru and lead merchandising sage here at Just Baseball — to go back and forth, in a similar vein to my Brian Cashman discussion with founder Aram Leighton, on how we’ve felt about them. So strap yourselves in, because I’m feeling like Timmy Turner and ready to talk about breakin’ da rules!

Javier: Buddy, ask me what kind of mood I’m in.

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Kendall: Did you wake up and choose violence?

Javier: That’s right, I’m ready to burn this whole thing to the ground.

Kendall: I’m not sure that our readers are ready for two of the wildest staff members…

Javier: That’s right, and they’re stuck with us because no one else at JB (Just Baseball, great website) was foolish enough to be on the negative side of what we’re about to discuss: rule changes! And more specifically, the extra-innings and double-header rules.

Kendall: Javi, if there is one thing that I love most about these changes, it’s innovation. Baseball always gets dinged for being boring and too old school blah blah blah, but these are things that bring entertainment to the sport. Why in the world would we take that away?

Javier: I agree! And the reason we’re having this chat right now is that — due to their insatiable lust for bad ideas, no doubt — Rob Manfred and Major League baseball brought up recently (EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s been like a month now, Javi just took a little while to get this up) that these two rules will likely not be back for next season. Timing is key here at JB (EDITOR’S NOTE: Unless it’s Javi that’s writing something, apparently) and I, for one, think both of these rules have made the game infinitely more enjoyable.

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I think people hating on either of the rules is silly, but I think the double-header rule is the more confounding; aren’t fans always complaining about how long the games are? Here’s one way of making that just a tad better!

Kendall: I’m going to try not to make this a #RoastManfred thread, but it’s, admittedly, tempting to do just that. Now, I’ll give him the extra-inning runner on second rule. Although I love it and think it brings an awesome element to the game, it feels cheeky. It feels like I just turned on arcade mode in MLB: The Show. It’s not as natural. Baseball purists have always been a part of the game and they hate this rule, but I love that you can bunt over to third and hit a sacrifice fly to win the game. Small ball and strategy have returned.

Buuuuuut [pause for dramatic effect] what possible argument could be made as to why the seven-inning double-headers are worse for the game going forward? Do more relievers get innings? At bats? Mad Bum could have actually thrown a no-no? Come on! You’re just on a power trip here, Mr. Manfred.

Javier: Again, I agree. I have a serious beef with the allegedly progressive baseball fans that want the game to improve, yet scoff at the notion of literally any rule change that’s brought along! Remember when instituting replay was some giant controversy? That s**t lasted about as long as Iggy Azalea’s time in the national spotlight! At least the old, more conservative baseball purists are honest about what they are! All these fakers? We must send them to the shadow realm! 

Kendall: Iggy Azalea… that is someone I haven’t thought about in a while. Thanks for that Javi. The shadow realm is for 90% of baseball fans, too. Honestly, I am not sure why I love this sport so much. The self-deprecating talk most of us join into is crippling and a drug that I dont think I can live without. Here is where I honestly am though: seventh inning double-headers can go and the extra-innings rule hurts, but I get it. But please for the love of Pete(r)…. give us a universal DH.

Javier: Yeah, I think there’s this sort of sick, perverse pleasure we get from arguing about this stuff? Maybe? Maybe baseball is more particularly geared towards full-blown masochists, or maybe that’s just sports in general? I’ll table that thought for now; it feels like something I need to ask my therapist.

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But here I am now, begging you like I’m a politician, to come all the way to my side on this issue! Seven-inning double-headers? Awesome, I like the idea of shortening potentially eight (8) hours to six (6) hours! The extra-innings rule? Great, give me something new! And universal DH? Absolutely agree, I want more David Ortiz/Nelson Cruz/Franmil Reyes types; I promise you all having another Actual Major Leaguer bat is fun!

ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA – JULY 27: Nelson Cruz #23 of the Tampa Bay Rays swings at a pitch during the seventh inning against the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field on July 27, 2021 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

Kendall: Yes. So many complaints are the game is too long, but football games are actually longer than baseball! People just don’t want to invest the time.

Looking at this year’s trade deadline, Nelson Cruz would have demanded more of a haul if he could have been traded to more than just AL teams, and I’ll be honest, I’m tired of watching Pujols play defense. Just let the man mash! Why is this so hard!

Javier: I’ve been saying it for years: we should do more to accommodate the elderly! Plus, it adds more intrigue to team-building — do you know how much more exciting it would’ve been if the NL had a DH for this recent trade deadline? That’s, like, at least six more teams that would’ve been vying for Nelson Cruz’s services, and not to mention how many more teams, in general, would be looking to acquire a bat (or trade one away).

And also, I agree about the time investment. I think, oftentimes, people like to blame the new generation’s shrinking attention span — along the lines of the whole “Millennials are ruining everything!” clickbait — for the decline of baseball. Even if this is partially true, it doesn’t acknowledge that ratings are down for nearly everything. There’s simply too much #Content, and I think it’s dishonest to blame 14-year-olds for not being hellbent on watching the Yankees play a series against the Orioles for the 5th time of the year given that they have the power to watch a bajillion great TV shows, watch nearly every movie, listen to any song, and play any video game in the comfort of their homes.

Then again, adults still think Donkey Kong is the pinnacle of video games, so I guess we shouldn’t expect them to understand all this anyways.

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Kendall: The elderly? Javi, I feel like Cruz is just getting started. I would have loved to see Nelson in brown, slugging it out with Pujols in the postseason. That would have been something else!

Javier: Slugging is fun! Also, I’ll forever stand by my belief that there are too many games — not that the games are too long.

But I’ll conclude by saying if you’re so butthurt about there being rule changes, acknowledge the fact that at least it’s something different. There’s 162 games a year, you can handle maybe 15% of those games having a potential wrinkle in extra-innings. Heaven forbid that, in a sport that’s so long and tedious, we add in a rule that at least mixes things up instead of remaining the same for the three hours you’ve already been watching it!

Kendall: You never get anywhere new without change. Baseball needs change even if it’s tough in the beginning.

Make it shorter. Make it fun. Make it America’s pastime again. I’m for the change.