Rob Manfred almost certainly did not stay up for all 16 innings of Dodgers-Padres because, like the rest of us, his interest in Dan Shulman’s exhausted scorecard has its limits.
But in a weird way, if he gets partial blame for the idiotic runner on second rule, Manfred should by logical extension get partial credit for the magnificent mutation in San Diego Wednesday night, because in the context of free baserunners for no good reason, what the two teams managed is even more extraordinary, and a damned sight funnier. Proof if proof were needed? There were eight games that reached the 16th inning in 2019 alone, and you remember none of them. True, that may only be proof that you have no usable memory left after all the dope, but you’ll remember this one, if only because Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and his Padres counterpart Jayce Tingler went on ornate tactical benders, seemingly for shits and giggles but ultimately because the moment demanded it.
Indeed, this game is proof that baseball is capable of literally anything except icing if left to its own time-honored devices. The decision to change the rules to make the game shorter and pacier have made it slower and pokier, but in this one case the game overcame the instinct to fix it in such a way that it became more gratuitously hilarious than ever. The only thing it lacked was a position player pitching, and that’s because Roberts didn’t have the fortitude to take 16th inning pinch-hitter Gavin Lux and pitch him in the bottom of the inning for that elusive first career save. The way the Padres were going, all the way down to being no-hit for nine innings but reaching base eight times by an intentional walk and once by an intentional balk, it would have made exactly zero difference. Among other things, they got caught in two third-to-home rundowns. ALL AFTER THE NINTH INNING, for Jesus Murphy’s sake.
In short, the stupid rules limiting the potential for the theatre of the absurd were killed dead at the very moment that they made this game an epic, and that is the purest essence of baseball—the systematic destruction of time, space and the whims of man. If you complained at any point that 16 innings or 349 minutes of this magnificent pie fight was too much of a thing, then you should have gone to bed in blissful and well-honed ignorance. You would not have been missed. In fact, you’re not missed today. Get your ass back to work while all your pals are laughing about the game. That’ll teach you and all your puritanical one-size-fits-all bullshit. Those who hung in there for all of it had a hell of a grand time—except of course for those happy-go-lucky chowderheads who left the ballpark after A.J. Pollock’s home run in the top of the 16th.
That sense of screw-it-let’s-get-whimsical enhanced last night’s experience. All 47 players and both managers embraced the task of breaking down the artificial limits set down by the suited gargoyles for whom they work. Dodgers-Padres was an act of victorious revolution, with the flag being Shulman’s ink-vomited scorecard and the anthem being Eduardo Perez laughing uncontrollably like he’d jammed his entire head inside a helium tank. It was easily the most delightful game of the season in any sport, and to any Giants fans who complained about how the Dodgers winning ruined the experience, your own delightful team should start losing Orioles-style solely because you exist. It’s not the singer, you nimrod, it’s the song.
And that’s why the rule is stupid, yet so perfect when defied. Some folks like free baseball, and those who don’t are free to stop watching. They probably have kids, and if those kids are so damned important, go play with them instead of tweeting how much extra innings eat it. Six hours of Kings-Timberwolves would definitely be misery, and six hours of Lions-Cardinals would absolutely be a violation of at least six international laws. On the other hand, six hours of Canadiens-Leafs would be exquisite because it would be a playoff game, and six hours of this was an untrammeled delight—if only because Rob Manfred helped explain to us in exhaustive preseason detail that such a game would be an abomination. He knows nothing of what amuses us—at least he didn’t until Wednesday night. He does now.
So anyway, thanks to Manfred for making this all possible, and damn him simultaneously for making this all possible. This happened because and despite him and your irrational demand for order in a game that thrives best when order is defied, and if we’ve hurt his feelings, he can simply tell us which of his reptilian aides came up with the idea and we’ll credit and blame them with equal fervor. We thank him for trying, and thank him for failing—or maybe it’s the other way around.