Thoughts on the Extra Base Runner Rule

One of the more controversial rules in baseball is the free runner on second base rule in extra innings (people keep referring to this as the ‘ghost runner’ and while my take on this is hardly unique…..it’s not a friggen’ ghost runner. It’s a free runner. A ghost runner is when you’re playing whiffle ball with your friends and there’s like two-three of you and you leave the bag and go “ghost runner on second!” I get that this detail is small but in a weird way it feels out of touch.

I’ve gone back and forth on my feelings towards this rule. I know there are people who enjoy the marathon baseball game and baseball’s unique nature of playing the game until it’s over. I enjoy the idea of this but when I think about it a 17-inning baseball game can be annoying as a fan. There are already pace of play complaints and really a long extra-inning game is the extreme end of this. If it takes place during a weekday it’s irritating if you need to wake up for work the following day and it means literally sitting in front of your TV for six-seven hours to watch a game that probably won’t end up meaning a whole lot (especially as MLB expands the playoffs more and more).

On the field it messes up the bullpens, it can cause injury issues which then effects ball games for weeks to come. It essentially creates more risk of keeping the best players off the field which the sport completely doesn’t need right now. The free base runner does provide inherent entertainment as every pitch in the extra innings becomes extra meaningful and there’s a level of stress and intensity and intense moments are one of the things that make baseball great.

With that said when you go from the uniqueness of being the only sport to really play it out until it’s over (I guess basketball does it as well with their five-minute overtime where they still play real basketball for that time period) to something that feels gimmicky than I can understand the backlash and I admit it feels a little strange. But, in the age when men were men…..and pitchers pitched 12 innings a game……because of lack of lights, there were ties.

Even in the World Series, there’d be a tie and they would just…replay the game the next day. For a long time, I thought just artificially ending the game and calling it a tie was kind of strange but I personally would enjoy seeing ties more than something gimmicky to decide a winner.

I like the extra element of adding this to the World Series just because when I read about past series’ there’s an extra element of drama, especially when it gets late in games and you know “if team A doesn’t score here they can only tie or that’s it, every inning that was battled for was meant nothing” Now I understand that ties are considered unacceptable in United States sports (an NFL game is mocked when it ends in a tie and the NHL decided to use an extreme gimmick to determine winners) and I understand it too when a long contest is attended and a fan has a conclusion that seems unsatisfying and I know there’d never be ties in the playoffs (or replays of the game) but I’m just saying what I find interesting about it.

If we’re going to find a way to prevent marathon games, I get it, and not have ties, then I wouldn’t mind seeing the game go 12 innings or so and then implement the free base runner. I think that would include the best of many worlds. Most games would end before then anyway, by the time fans are bored and tired they have the gimmick innings to speed the game up and it would keep the 17, 18-inning games from taking place. Then again, I think part of what makes baseball fun is the long, grueling marathon aspect where everything seems to be a roller coaster and the game

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