John Smoltz, a guy people love to hate for his seeming dislike of modern baseball, is actually saying positive things about an MLB innovation for the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season.

He’s OK with the idea of starting extra innings with a runner on second base and no one out. That’s sure to throw off some people who enjoy slamming the Hall of Famer’s TV work for Fox and MLB Network.

“As I’ve gotten away from the game and seen it from a broadcaster’s view . . . the realization is this: Look, baseball really wasn’t meant to play 17,18 innings,” he told ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt on Wednesday’s late “SportsCenter.”

“I get it in the playoffs. I love it in the playoffs. I think that’s where it belongs. But in the regular season, all it does is it really sets your club back.”

A few examples of how clubs are set back: They have to call up pitchers from the minor leagues after tearing through their bullpens during marathon games, relievers who throw long in extras are frequently unavailable for multiple days, and position players are sent to the mound in key situations.

That’s not to say Smoltz’s old-school mindset is totally gone.

“And really, in the game today, when you get to extra innings, everybody’s trying to hit a home run. That’s why the games go so long,” he said. “The strategy is, there really isn’t any strategy in the extra innings. So if nothing else, this is going to create some action, action that we need to see that maybe prevents a game from going 17, 18 innings.”

There were 208 extra-inning games in the major leagues last season, which represented about 8.5 percent of all games. In a 60-game season, the length of this season, that percentage would mean five extra-inning games per team.

As to Smoltz’s reference to “17, 18 innings”: One MLB game went 17 last year, three went 18 and one went 19.

Sporting News