MLB rule penalizes Tampa Bay Rays’ bullpen in extra-inning games
By George Curcio
When Major League Baseball first instituted its “extra-inning” rule, it was met with much derision and decrying from the fans, especially older ones who had matured during baseball’s “golden” decades in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.
Social media was rife with negative comments from fans from the start. That rejection of the rule has continued since then as constant. Some fans dismissed their complaints as extreme and “just another thing” to complain about.
On Wednesday, however, provided just another example of how decisive the rule can be with its effect on teams.
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How the Tampa Bay Rays were impacted
The Tampa Bay Rays took a 1-1 tie against the Yankees into extra-innings, relying on their bullpen to silence the Yankees’ offense, which Pete Fairbanks had done with limited exposure this season.
Per the “extra-innings” rule, however, the Yankees started the inning with a runner on second base. Fairbanks then hit Greg Allen with a pitch. As Allen took first base, Gio Urshela held at second.
Aaron Judge then came to the plate and bounced a grounder that just eluded the glove of shortstop Wander Franco and went into centerfield. As Urshela came around to score, the Yankees gained a 2-1 lead.
It was not that they had hit particularly well against Fairbanks. Instead, they started the inning with a “freebie”: a runner at second base who got there not by talent, but by virtue of MLBs’ rule.
The Yankees went on to win 3-1, but it was Urshela’s run that determined the outcome of the game.
It is a moot point to say the Tampa Bay Rays started their half of the inning with a runner on second. The argument that it makes things equal between the teams is a false one.
Simply put, the Rays have not stayed within a couple of games of the lead in the AL East because of their offense. They have done so with a solid bullpen.
Placing a runner at second to start the Yankees’ half of the inning automatically penalized Fairbanks and the Rays bullpen.
It is as if a double had been yielded to start the inning. Unfortunately for the Rays, the Yankees were able to capitalize on the freebie they had been afforded.
The Tampa Bay Rays entered yesterday’s game with a 60-42 won-loss record, but a 5-9 one in extra-inning games. It can be argued that they lost several of those extra-inning games because of the MLB rule. In a race as tight as the one featuring the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees, several games can make a larger difference than would be assumed.
Games should be won and lost with talent on the field, not through “freebies” that automatically penalize the strength of a team.