Minnesota Hitters Should Start Emulating Rod Carew To Break Extra Inning Failure
Technically, you cannot hit a walk-off home run with two innings left to play, especially when the blast simply ties the game. Yet when Texas catcher Jonah Heim took Minnesota reliever Hanser Robles deep yesterday to even the game at three, the blast had all the finality of a walk-off home run.
The Twins, for a variety of reasons, are winless in seven extra inning games. Even more telling, after the first thirty games on the 2021 season, Minnesota hitters have scored just one run in the ninth inning or later.
Such a number clearly indicates an anemic offense, but the bullpen has been equally ineffective. That combination has been instrumental in the late inning failures of the club, even though some fans have expressed blame on the highly unpopular extra frame rule in Major League Baseball.
For the second straight season, each inning after the ninth begins with a runner at second. This situation has apparently negatively affected some teams more than others, and it is not just their players who chastise the rule.
“That’s not baseball. That’s a carnival,” said Ryan Fagan of Sporting News on April 27. “Why not just set up a dunking booth in center field and put the managers on the splash seat? Actually, that would be lots of fun.”
Former players, too, are lamenting the rule, which has radically changed the game they spent their careers loving. Pitchers seem to be especially appalled by the automatic base runner in scoring position, justifiably so.
“I hate the runner on second base to start an extra inning,” stated former All-Star right hander Bronson Arroyo during a broadcast in Cincinnati last weekend. “I know what it's like to pitch with a runner at second base, so I want a clean inning.”
Nevertheless, the rule will be around for at least the rest of the season, which has so far had little effect in the projected standings. No club has suffered as much as the pre-season favorite Twins, but the Yankees have lost all but one of their five extra inning games.
It is no surprise the Twins and the Yankees would be the two teams hurt most by the extra inning rule, which seems to be of more benefit to small ball. Over the last two seasons Minnesota and New York have finished finished first and second in total home runs, including their record setting blasts in 2019.
The Twins at first did not seem too concerned about the new extra-innings rule, even after all three of their first losses came after the ninth. Now that the first month has left the Twins well under .500, perhaps manager Rocco Baldelli and the front office needs to address the issue.
Bronx field boss Aaron Boone might want to take a similar approach, even though the Yankees have managed to flirt with the .500 mark so far. Instead of arranging a lineup that focuses on hitting it out, a la Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, New York should make more use of well-rounded hitters like DJ Lemahiu and Brett Gardner.
Even though the Twins and Yanks have been its most noticeable victims, the rule could end up as the catalyst both teams need to develop into pennant winners like the Tampa Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers. The extra inning rule may have any better overall impact on the sport itself, as teams will need to move away from the all-or-nothing approach marring the beauty of the game.
In turn, it could help solve another problem hurting baseball right now. If teams start prioritizing small ball over long ball, fans could bid good riddance to the dastardly infield shift.