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Manfreded, Again


Chuck

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By David Saltzer, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer

Dear Rob,

We don’t know each other, but we should meet. You are the Commissioner of Baseball, and I’m a lifelong baseball fan and diehard Angels fan. I’d love to invite you to my Angels seats, and we can discuss the state of the game over a beer or two. 

Sometimes it seems like we live in similar worlds. I get that baseball, like all things, evolves over time. The game played today is not the same as it was when I was a kid. New analytics have changed how teams are constructed and how players are used. For example, we probably won’t see another 300-game winner because of how teams use of bullpens these days,

Over the past few years, you’ve made a lot of changes to the game I love. Several of these changes, I can get behind, as a fan because they restore balance to the game. Case in point: banning the shift. Modern day analytics had so changed the game, that it was affecting the enjoyability of the game. Too many outs were made due to the shift and the inability or unwillingness by teams and players to overcome it. Something had to be done, and banning the shift was a good idea. 

Other times, though, it seems like you and I are living in entirely different worlds. There is probably no bigger area where we are not in alignment than with the ghost runner in extra innings. You say you like the rule, but did you honestly survey the fans, particularly the hard-core fans, the ones who make up most of your season ticket holders, merchandise buyers, etc.? Because if you did, I would love to meet the fans who like this rule since I can’t find anyone who really supports it. No one in my section with season seats likes the rule; in fact, I can say with certainty that everyone hates it. And it is easy to understand why it is so hated. 

The ghost runner rule is bad for baseball. It violates two of baseball central tenants, and as such, is antithetical to the game. 

First, the ghost runner rule violates the drama and story of baseball to the point that it alters the game in an unfair way. Take today’s Easter Sunday game between the Angels and Blue Jays. The Angels took an early 6-0 lead, only to fall behind 10-6. 

Going into the bottom of the 9th inning, the Angels were still losing 10-7. However, in the bottom of the 9th, the Angels came back to tie the game up at 10-10. The momentum had once again shifted. Like an Easter miracle, the Angels offense came back to life to score 3 in the bottom of the 9th. The fans were on their feet, cheering their team on—the excitement and momentum were with the Angels, and if you were in the ballpark, you would have felt it. 

In most cases, the Angels should have gone on to win. However, the top of the 10th rolled around, and a runner for the Blue Jays ran out to second base. Why? He hadn’t gotten a hit. He hadn’t gotten a walk. He wasn’t even hit by a pitch. So, what’s he doing on second base?

Suddenly, the Blue Jays, who were seemingly on their way to losing, suddenly got new life. They didn’t earn it; they were given it by a rule—your rule. With all due respect, why are your rules affecting the outcome of my team’s games?

When the 10th inning began, fans in the stadium knew that the Angels were in trouble because of the ghost runner. While just moments before they were up on their feet in the bottom of the 9th, they were suddenly chilled seeing the Blue Jays with a runner on second base. No true baseball fan can support a rule that has that much of an effect on the momentum and energy of a game.

The second central tenant of baseball that the ghost runner violates is that when baseball does lean towards one team in the rules, it invariably leans towards the home team. The ghost runner rule, unfortunately, completely turns that around and favors the visiting team. That’s bad for business. 

As the Commissioner of Baseball, you know that we, the fans, are the extra player on the team. You know the importance of homefield advantage. According to this article, the homefield advantage has held steady in baseball at about 53%. Since the homefield advantage is clearly a part of the sport, rules that alter this advantage are antithetical to the game. 

Worse yet, the ghost runner—your rule—completely alters how the visitors and home team must play the game to win. According to this article, a team with a runner on second and no outs should expect to score over a run per inning. That gives the advantage to the visitors as they should expect to take the lead and the home team should expect to have to come from behind again just to tie the game! That’s a distinct disadvantage for the home team and goes completely against one of the central tenants of baseball! 

The evidence seems to bear this out. According to this article, through 2021, home teams went from having the expected 53% winning percentage at home to over a 53% losing percentage in extra inning games! 

How can this be good for business? Don’t you and the other owners overall want the fans in the stands to walk away happy from the ballpark? Isn’t that why the homefield advantage is encouraged? Isn’t that why you had the homefield advantage for the World Series depend on which league won the All-Star Game for so many years?

Please don’t listen to the echo chamber in the media. Reporters speak to the fans, but invariably, they don’t speak for the fans. They have a different take on the ballgame than fans do. Ending a game early let’s them meet their deadlines and get home earlier. They’ve had a long day, and with editors trying to get papers out, the pressure to get something written is tremendous. We like free baseball. 

And I understand why players and managers are comfortable with the rule. They’ve had long days, and don’t want to have to juggle rosters and manage workloads during a rare multi-inning extra inning game. With the ever-changing CBA, it becomes more challenging for teams to manage all of this. 

But, again, that’s something that we fans would understand. All the rules in the CBA may prevent a minor leaguer from coming up. Or it may lead to a difficult decision on the 40-man roster. While that may have real world implications for players, and make life challenging for coaches and managers, that is part of their line of work. We deal with that in our jobs everyday too. 

More importantly fans understand how a long extra inning game can affect a team through a series and over a week or two. But that’s part of the drama and story of a season. We accept that. If anything, we like challenges like that (if we are being honest with ourselves) because it’s more for us to discuss during a playoff stretch. 

With an expanded playoff format, we, the fans, will tune into rival team games just to follow how this minutia will affect our team’s chances of making the playoffs. We will track the waiver wire to see who’s available and heavily debate who might get cut from the 40-man roster. We will call into postgame shows to discuss this, just for our team. And, if it happens to a postseason rival, we will double our interest!

Generating that much interest in the game should be the goal of baseball, the business. You and I both know that baseball is a business first and foremost. So, why are you continuing a rule that goes against your best business interests? Fans like seeing their team win. If you want to attract more fans to the ballpark, don’t make rules that put the home team at a distinct disadvantage!

Now that we are playing with the pitch clock, the games are markedly shorter. It has a much crisper feel. Fans who want to leave games early, will leave at a set time or inning, regardless. Don’t worry about them. But, for true devotees of the game, an extra inning game that’s shorter in time is way more enjoyable than a 9-inning game that takes longer to play.

During Covid, fans understood that some things had to change while we dealt with the disease. Covid is over. It’s time to get baseball back to where it was before Covid. We both know that this isn’t real baseball because you didn’t make the rule part of the postseason. If it’s not a good rule when baseball really counts, then it’s not a good rule during the season while we get there.  

End the ghost runner rule before another home team gets Manfreded again.
 

2 Comments


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Gotta hand it to the halos.

Got some terriible breaks the past 2 games but still battled to the very end.  Those breaks should even out over the course of the season.

Then come back tonight and win.  This team has heart. 

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