This year, for the first time, Minor League Baseball instituted a new rule (new to affiliated ball anyway; it’s been used in international competitions for years) to drastically shorten extra inning games. Starting in the 10th inning (or the 8th in a scheduled doubleheader, since minor league doubleheaders consist of two 7 inning games), every inning starts with runners at first and second. The idea is that some of these runners will score, and that you won’t have too many extra innings. For the River Cats, that generally worked as expected, as their longest game of the year went 11 innings, and just about all of their other extra inning affairs were settled in the first extra frame.
But what do the players think about the rule? There might be some quibbles, but in general, they’re in favor of it. “I like it a lot. I think, not that it gets the game over with quicker, [but] it just makes it more exciting, and I think you have that controversial call the manager has to make of bunting him over or just letting your guys hit.” Ryder Jones told me. “I think it just moves it along and makes it more fun.”
Gregor Blanco echoed that sentiment. “I feel like it’s not true baseball, but at the same time, this is the minor leagues,” he said. “It’s more about developing the players and helping them to be better players and [improve their] skills and learn how to play the game ... They already played all through 9 innings, they got the guys that they wanted to pitch that day, all the guys they wanted to hit 4 at bats, 5 at bats.”
Some guys like the new rule just because it lets them show off what they’re good at. “I love that rule,” said submariner Tyler Rogers. “I think that shows a lot of what my strength is as a pitcher, coming in with a runner on base, and I think that shows how I can be utilized best.”
Not everyone is unequivocally positive, though. While Ray Black appreciates it – “ It’s nice from a bullpen perspective because sometimes you see those games get so out of control,” he said – he also thinks that it could be delayed a little. “I would like to have seen that maybe pushed back to the 11th or 12th. To be like, we gave them each an extra inning or two opportunity, and then, all right, we gotta end this game. “
And as much as Steven Okert likes not having to play 17 inning games in the minors anymore, “It’s different,” he told me in September. “I’m not a huge fan of having guys start at second base, but it is what it is and you gotta play by the rules.”
As for whether the rule would be good in the majors, there was near unanimity on that. “I don’t know if it’d go [in the majors],” Okert said, diplomatically.
”For the major leagues, I don’t think it’s good because I don’t feel it’s true baseball,” Blanco said.
”I like [the new rule] in the minor leagues, but I’m not a big fan of a little too much change [in the majors],” said Trevor Brown.
But there was one guy willing to buck the trend.
”I think the fans would like it a lot,” Jones told me. “I just think, when you play 16, 17 innings, it kills your pitching. I think it affects the quality of the game the next day. There’s no pitching left ... It’s fun for the fans to see, oh, position player’s pitching. But when you have these teams that have so much riding on a W or a loss, you don’t want a position player to have to throw two innings. That’s no fun.”
Like I said back in August, you truly can’t intimidate Ryder Jones.