Updated: Aug 6
Playoff baseball is back as the MLB Wild Card games kicked off this week and they did not disappoint! In one of the tightest races in recent history, the Red Sox knocked off the Yankees to win the AL Wild Card and the red-hot Cardinals were sent packing in electric fashion, as Dodgers’ utility man, Chris Taylor, secured the team’s NL Wild Card victory with a walk-off home run.
Despite the edge-of-your-seat matchups we are all gearing up to watch, baseball enthusiasts are hype for more than just the post-season play–the free runner on second in extras is out! But, how did this “rule” even come about in the first place?
It was Monday, June 29, 2020, when MLB Commissioner, Robert Manfred, made an announcement that would change the way baseball has been played since its inception–in the event of an extra inning game, each team would begin their half-inning at bat with a runner on second base. The controversial free man on second, coined as the “Manfred man,” was implemented to support the MLB’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic with the hopes to speed up pace of play and to keep players from being in close proximity to each other for any longer than necessary.
The 2020 season came and went, and, upon arrival of the playoffs, so did “Manfred’s man.” Fans were content because the classic game they grew up loving was back to normal.
Despite Manfred’s statements made to the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, that the extra inning rule would not be in the league’s “long-term future,” the MLB opened their 2021 season with the rule still in full effect. Manfred has been known for tinkering with the rules of America’s Pastime, which has been extremely controversial amongst the fans who have qualms as to whether the changes are good for the game.
Thankfully, post-season play is back, and “Manfred’s man” will not be making its appearance this year. This bears the question: will we see it next year? What is even more interesting to me, however, is the fact this specific change has never been codified into the Official Baseball Rules (“OBR”), so how is it even being enforced?
The OBR states in its Foreword, “[t]his code of rules governs the playing of baseball games by professional teams of Major League Baseball and any league within the professional development league system operated by Major League Baseball in which Minor League Clubs are assigned to compete.” If that stands true, then why has the Official Playing Rules Committee not modified the code? Well, it seems as though they attempted to via a subsection under its Important Notes section stating:
The 2021 Official Baseball Rules do not include any of the rules that were adopted exclusively for the 2021 Major League season, which are contained in Section 5.1 of the MLB 2021 Operations Manual. To the extent of a conflict between the Official Baseball Rules and Section 5.1 of the Operations Manual, the Operations Manual shall control for Major League play.
Notwithstanding, Section 5.1 only contains language regarding substitutions and pitching changes, designated hitter rules, and calling “time” and dead balls. There is not a single phrase or even an inkling of reference to the “Manfred man.”
It is well founded that the Office of the Commissioner and the Official Playing Rules Committee have the authority to create and dissolve rules within the OBR. In fact, the code has been amended dating back to 1949! Nevertheless, policy, procedure, and rules are effectuated for good reason, and it is concerning to me as a traditional baseball fan to see such a huge gap in this great game’s official rules.
May “Manfred’s man” take its seat back on the bench for good after the conclusion of this season! There is no doubt in my mind that Commissioner Manfred should be credited with an E1 on this one in accordance with 9.12(a)(1) for this muff.
Cliff Wood is a 3L and current Web Editor for the Delaware Journal of Corporate Law at Widener University Delaware Law School. He has previously worked for Geragos & Geragos, Los Angeles County DA’s Office, and Delaware County DA’s Office. Cliff also has a forthcoming publication in Del. J. Corp. Law titled, Knowing Your Rights: Stockholder Demands to Inspect Corporate Books and Records Following Woods v. Sahara Enterprises, Inc. Contact him via email at [email protected] or [email protected], on Instagram @cjayyy_wood and LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/cliff-wood-bb2692125/.
Sources: New rules, features, protocols for 2020 MLB Season, MLB.Com (June 29, 2020), https://www.mlb.com/news/mlb-announces-new-features-for-2020-season.  Bonnie. Stiernberg, Baseball’s Automatic Runner on Second in Extra Innings Has to Go, InsideHook (May 19, 2021, 7:13 AM), https://www.insidehook.com/article/sports/baseballs-automatic-runner-second-extra-innings-has-go; see also supra note 1.  Blake Williams, MLB Likely Eliminate 7-Inning Doubleheaders, Runner On 2nd Base For Extra Innings Rule, Medium Large Sport Media, LLC. (July 15, 2021), https://dodgerblue.com/mlb-likely-eliminating-seven-inning-doubleheaders-runner-on-second-base-extra-innings-rule/2021/07/15/. See supra note 1; see also Tom Verducci, The Nine Big Changes. Coming to Baseball in 2021, ABG-SI, LLC. Sports Illustrated (Apr. 1, 2021), https://www.si.com/mlb/2021/04/01/mlb-rule-changes-2021-shift-pitch-clock-extra-innings (providing insight on just a few of the recent changes). Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, Official Baseball Rules 2021 Edition (2021), at iv. Id. at v. Id. at 51-63. Id. at iii. Id. at 123.