“You know what, I’m going to be honest, I don’t like it,” Davey Martinez said when he was asked about starting a runner on second in extras like Major League Baseball teams will during the 2020 MLB campaign.
“I don’t like it because I think it takes away a little bit from the game,” Washington’s manager explained.
“I mean, regardless if you’re 0-0 in a game or 1-1 or a tie, whatever, and you’re still working to play that game, and all of a sudden just to throw a guy out there for free, basically, to me it just doesn’t seem right. I’ve been doing this for a long time as a player, as a coach, and now as a manager. I’m kind of old school in that way. But you know what, it’s a new era, so we’ll see what happens and we’ll see what transpires.”
MLB is trying to spare teams (and their pitching staffs) from the sort of long, 16-17+ inning games that are known to ruin bullpens for days, which would be especially ruinous in the 60-game campaign they’re trying to pull of during the coronavirus pandemic, but it isn’t really the sort of thing we think they should be using in the majors.
It’s been used in minor league ball, but the minors are about development. This is Major League Baseball for frank’s sake.
Martinez was asked if he knew anyone who actually liked this rule?
“I haven’t met anyone so far that likes it,” he said.
They’re going to have to deal with it though, so the Nationals have been practicing what they’ll do in those scenarios.
“We’ve been throwing some different scenarios out there,” he explained earlier this month as the Nats practiced and prepared for baseball’s return in Spring Training 2.0.
“And it all depends on like who makes last out, who’s hitting. Things of that nature. But I feel like we’ve got guys that can drive in runs, so based on where we’re at in the lineup we’ll see what happens, but yeah, we’re definitely going to do different things with guys on second base according to who’s hitting, who’s running, things of that nature.”
“I don’t like it,” Martinez reiterated. “Like I said, I’m from that real old school of baseball you know. And I get it.
“For me I think they’re trying to save the pitching. But it’s still — I think we’re carrying 15 pitchers, so that’s plenty.”
So will teams all just try to bunt the runner over and hit a sac fly to bring him in? Is that the SOP in the minors since they started doing that? Martinez said recently that’s not how they will do it in Washington, or not all the time at least. They’ve been practicing different ways to handle the situation on both sides.
“We were doing both,” he said after a recent workout. “We put a couple picks on. Wanted to see what the defense looked like, wanted the pitchers to actually get out there and see what the runner on second base looks like, and also trying to see which guys could get the guys over. There’s going to be scenarios where we’re going to try to bunt the guys over, and there will be scenarios where I just swing the bat and try to drive them in. So, we need to work on it. It’s going to happen this year and I want to work on it, and we’re going to do it a few more times before the season starts.”
It’s turned into situational hitting practice of sorts in Martinez’s Summer Camp.
“I want to start incorporating it,” he said. “Start doing it. Try to do a little bit more tomorrow and the next day, but I want this to be simple for these guys.
“A lot of times guys get up there and our left-handed hitter thinks that he has to pull the ball to the right side. Not necessarily true.
“If he hits the ball up the middle of the field like [Wilmer] Difo did, with the guy on second base, that runner gets over to third base even if that’s an out.
“Same thing with a right-handed hitter. They don’t necessarily have to hit the ball — they’ve just got to stay in the middle of the field, and try to get that guy over to third base, and that is stuff that we talked about and wanted to work on. Not necessarily try to get him yourself.
“We have a good matchup, I just want these guys to hit and drive the run in. Don’t worry about getting him over, just get a good ball to hit and drive him in.”
Catcher Yan Gomes, who’ll have to deal with the new rule from behind the plate, was asked for his thoughts on the new rule.
“I mean, that’s a tough question,” Gomes said, “but I haven’t really wrapped my head around it just yet. But it’s something that we’re going to have to get used to.
“Honestly, I don’t even really know. I’m trying to make something up thinking about it right now, but I think we’ve kind of mentioned it a little bit, and I know Davey has mentioned that we’re going to work on stuff like that, but until that time comes ... I’ll try to give you a better answer then.”
So, Gomes essentially passed. Don’t worry, his manager has the opinions.
“I mean, like I said, I’m not a big fan, but it’s a rule,” Martinez said last week, restating his stance.