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Apr. 8—Sending a runner to second base to start an extra inning is a silly idea that should be consigned to a Cooperstown display on baseball played during the pandemic, if this aberration even need be remembered at all.
The Red Sox won in 12 innings against the Rays Tuesday night, and given the way this season is starting, maybe we should just be happy with that. But the baseball purist inside us gets a wicked case of reflux when a runner magically appears halfway to home, as though they're suddenly playing by Little League rules. Besides, take away those gifted runners from both teams in the 12th, and the Sox win anyway.
The extra runner rule, a holdover from last year's shortened pandemic season, is meant to speed things along, presumably reducing the amount of time players spend together on the field. Same goes for its companion rule that cuts short games played in a double-header after the seventh inning.
The time actually saved is insignificant. Even so, Major League Baseball and its players agreed to extend both rules through the current season. (Gabe Kapler, now managing in San Francisco, told The Associated Press back in February, "we're comfortable with both.") As for us, we'll hope this season is where these COVID-19 inspired contrivances end. The shot of extra offense changes the rhythm and strategy of an extra inning, not to mention robbing the ticket-buying fan of bonus baseball.
Besides, imagine the outcomes avoided by these sped-up games. Say the Yankees are spotted a runner on second base at the start of the 10th inning in Game 4 of the 2004 American League Championship Series. Bernie Williams' line out to right advances that runner to third, and Jorge Posada's pop up to center sends him home, effectively sealing the sweep of the series before the Sox can launch a miracle comeback (which didn't get going until David Ortiz hit a walk-off home run in the 12th.)
Meddling with things that don't need fixing is only part of the reason to ditch this extra-runner rule. Emerging from a public health siege and enjoying life as it returns to something that resembles normal is the other. Fans are finally replacing the cardboard cutouts in the seats at Fenway. The baseball season is again 162 games. Let the extra innings again be extra innings.