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Washington Nationals Roundtable: Talking 2020 MLB season; NL DH; Runners start on second in extras? + more...

We decided to gather around the virtual roundtable with everyone planning to try to get the Washington Nationals’ defense of their World Series championship underway...

League Championship Series - St Louis Cardinals v Washington Nationals - Game Three Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

With some form of a baseball-ish 2020 MLB season hopefully starting late next month and the official defense of the Washington NationalsWorld Series title potentially weeks away, provided the coronavirus pandemic doesn’t bring an end to the dream, we decided to get the old virtual roundtable going again to discuss where things stand after three months of no baseball.

The Participants:

  1. Patrick Reddington - Moderator/Angry sarcastic as— guy
  2. Brett Barnett - New Guy/FBB columnist
  3. Marty Niland - Slightly less new guy/FBB writer
  4. Blake Finney- Brit; grizzled veteran; opinion-haver; DH hater

As always, we started with the important topics, like, seriously, what the frank are you doing putting a runner on second to start extra innings if they do play this season? I know, I know, they don’t want 20-inning games that will use up all the pitchers in a shortened season...

DH in the NL? Mike Rizzo does. not. like. Or at least he didn’t used to. Will even the GM of the 2019 World Series champs admit that it might be a good idea for this odd season the league is going to try?

Also, why haven’t Rizzo and manager Davey Martinez been given new contracts yet? But on to the questions and answers... starting with the runner on 2nd in extras thing...

From MLB Operations Manual for 2020 Season:

Extra Innings - During the championship season only (not the postseason), OBR 7.01(b) (“Extra Innings”) will be modified in accordance with Minor League regulations, such that each half-inning following the ninth inning will begin with a runner on second base, as follows.”

Moderator: Are they seriously starting extra innings with runners on second? This is a rule a dad who’s really tired of watching his kid’s game would come up with. Or does it make sense to avoid any marathon games?

Brett Barnett (BB): “While I was working in minor league baseball in 2018 as a scorekeeper and TrackMan operator, they implemented this rule for the first time. It’s not with ‘tradition,’ but it did make things interesting and result in quicker finishes. I don’t see this as a problem in a season that’s already an anomaly anyway.”

Marty Niland (MN): “Ties are OK. Really. It would make extra-inning postseason games even more epic.”

Blake Finney (BF): “Don’t like this rule at all. Not only is it a bit artificial trying to force the issue, it also could be manipulated a bit by the road team if they don’t score and can just intentionally walk the first batter to give them force outs at all bases. A better idea in this strange season would be to just allow games to end in ties after 10, 11, or 12 innings.”

Moderator: NL DH? I keep hearing it’s inevitable in the new CBA. Still hate the idea, but understand using it in this *season. Am I wrong?

BB: “This season makes sense. Again, traditionalists scoff at the idea. I used to make the ‘strategy’ argument but I’ve personally gotten tired of watching .111 pitchers hit.”

MN: “I must accept this bitter pill. Howie Kendrick and Asdrúbal Cabrera pretty much have the position filled in Washington. Takes more pressure off of Carter Kieboom. Remember him?”

BF: “Though I’m very anti-DH usually, in this strange season I’m fine with implementing the DH. With a limited Spring Training 2.0, they’ll be entirely focused on pitching and trying to avoid injuries there, along with the position players who also don’t have as much time to ramp up being afforded days out of the field in the DH spot. Just make sure it’s back in 2021 and beyond.”

Moderator: Do you think this MLB season is actually going to happen, or will the coronavirus end up making all the negotiations and waiting pointless in the end?

BB: “I’m skeptical about the feasibility of it all. The wheels will turn, at least for awhile, but I’m wary the season goes off without a hitch.”

MN: “It’s going to start. I fear another major COVID outbreak that suspends not only this season but all the fall and winter sports as well. I hope I’m wrong.”

BF: “It’s going to be tough to see the season out. Though European football soccer leagues have been able to do so relatively trouble-free, America as a whole is in a much more volatile state, with different states having different levels of infection, especially with a second wave looking more and more likely by the day with no vaccine likely any time soon. It will all depend how MLB reacts when, inevitably, major leaguers get the virus.”

Moderator: How do you like the Nationals’ chances of repeating in a 60-game sprint?

[ed. note - “This question was dashed off and ill-considered, but they answered it anyway.”]

BB: “As much as I like anyone else’s. In such a strange situation, there’s not really anyone that’s a sure thing. One bad team could be hot and one good team could be cold. Those are the kinds of things we’ve been used to baseball eventually leveling out. Not this year. Nationals, Yankees, Royals, Pirates. Doesn’t really matter. Nobody is safe and nobody is eliminated.”

MN: “When a dominant pitching staff and experienced lineup work together a 60-game sprint is always a good possibility. My guilty indulgence is Statis-Pro tabletop baseball. I put together all-star teams and play short seasons of various lengths. This is almost the same in real life. But with the starting pitching depth Mike Rizzo has built, the team will always be well prepared for a short season or series.”

BF: “Well, the extended lay-off has to have helped the Nationals’ pitchers who worked hard down the stretch and into the postseason last season. But as we saw with the Nats at the start of 2019, you can’t predict with too much certainty over the course of just 60 games.

Moderator: Baseball in empty parks? Should they stick with sounds of the game? Add crowd noise? Sound effects?

BB: “Stick with the sounds of the game. It’ll be a nice return to the grassroots of baseball. Crack of bats, thuds of gloves. The way the game was intended. Now there’s a ‘traditionalist’ approach for you.”

MN: “I almost needed a trigger warning on this. I remember when fans knew when to stand up and cheer, and when major league teams didn’t need sound effects or music cues, and the ballpark organist.... oh, the heck with it! Walkup tunes and hand-clapping prompts are part of the game now, and if there are no fans in the stands, it would be hard to dispense with them as part of the in-game experience. No artificial crowd noise, though. And no one in this season will ever accuse this Nats fan of cheering too loudly when the game is on the line.”

BF: “Speaking from experience of watching soccer, both Bundesliga and the Premier League, with both versions, I personally prefer listening without crowd noise. Having that constant murmur in the background makes it feel more normal, but during big moments, either having that murmur or delayed reaction because someone has to push the right button is very rigid and not worth it.”