One way or another, MLB is going to change the way extra-inning games are decided. Why not stop play after the ninth and a home run contest decides the winner?
MLB, while trying to revive a wayward season, is finally coming around to recognizing that baseball is about the fans and the men who play the game.
In an interview yesterday with AP, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred pledged that he would “not leave one stone unturned” in his efforts to find a way to resurrect the 2020 season safely.
So, a few days ago, my column featured several “stones” that deserve consideration by MLB.
Each is designed to heighten fan interest in baseball with a devil may care approach to a season that is already anything but “regular.”
But I was remiss in not including a genuine game-changer that fits in with something MLB is already trying to institute – which is to eliminate or alter extra-inning games.
MLB has previously floated a plan to start each half-inning after the ninth with a runner on second. A decent idea and one that heightens the excitement and increases the odds of a game quickly being decided.
MLB Listen Up – Here’s A Better Idea
But here’s an even better idea. Let me explain.
When a game is tied after nine innings of play, the contest is officially over. A ten-minute intermission allows for the grounds crew to convert the field to batting practice mode.
Managers have the same time to declare two players from their respective team, plus a batting practice pitcher, to compete in a home-run hitting contest to decide the outcome of the game.
Kids, ten years old up to fifteen who brought their glove, are permitted onto the field to shag and return balls to the infield during the contest.
From this point on, I don’t pretend to have definitive answers as to how the home run contest is conducted.
But I imagine the contest would mirror the All-Star Game’s Home Run Derby in a condensed format.
The visiting team’s reps would bat in the one and three slots with the home team in the second and fourth position – and the home team always gets last licks just as in an extra-inning game.
Three “innings” comprised of ten swings for each at-bat – the team with the most home runs at the end wins the game – and the result is officially recorded into the standings.
Or, something like that.
MLB: Where And Why The Idea Is Grounded
Extra-inning games increase the physical and mental stress on players, most notably on bullpens and pitchers required to throw those extra pitches that eat into tomorrow’s scheduled game.
With each pitch and at-bat, the odds for an injury increase exponentially. That can’t be good for anyone.
Moreover, fatigue is also a factor for fans. For most of us, wouldn’t you agree that nine innings of baseball over two-and-a-half hours is enough to satisfy our habit for one day or night?
And for local TV stations televising a game, extra-inning games mean cutting into high-profit news segments, and as the innings mount, there can even be a spillover into the mega-profit late-night shows like Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert.
No one wants this.
MLB – Do It Now Or Regret It Later
Something good always emerges from tragedy and despair. For Major League Baseball, the re-opening of the 2020 season, whether it comes in May or July, represents an opportunity to re-invent baseball without destroying the guts of the game.
New fans are out there for the taking, and old ones are there for the keeping. But baseball cannot re-emerge as a clone.
It must have bold experiments (always subject to change or deletion) that add a climatic tone to games that neither team deserves to win – up until that point.
The NBA and NFL stick with more of the same and shortened overtimes. The NHL takes it a dramatic step further with the “shootout.”
But MLB can knock this one out of the park with a climactic display of power, the reason why most fans come to a game – the almighty Home Run that decides a game.