By S. Samek
Sunday night I turned on the TV to watch. I turned on the usual late night fair ESPN. To my surprise the Yankees and Cubs were still going at it locked in a draw. Deep into extras the game lasted 18 innings. It took six hours and five minutes to complete.
Now Buster Onlney of ESPN is writing that the end of play till you win games are coming. That extra innings depletes lineups and can cause injury. That players hate playing marathon games at the expense of travel and sleep.
Conversely Onlney and the fans like extra-inning games. A twitter poll conducted by Onlney produced a 75 percent in favor rating for keeping current rules based on about 34,500 responses. Who wouldn’t like the extra play though. It gives fans more bang for your buck on super expensive tickets. It gives the opportunity to experience the dramatic walk off win. It can create memories. Memories like the Braves and Pirates 19 inning affair that was the longest in Pirates history and dubious for the Jerry Meals call. Though it was very memorable. It also lasted longer than the Cubs and Yankees game in question.
Yes, many fans do leave the stadium after it gets too late for obligations, and yes it may be tough to play for a dwindling crowd. Though it is a requirement to play the game to conclusion no matter what the number of fans is. Plus, with replay and television people will see what happened even hours later. I would also say teams should love extra innings as it gives them more time to sell food and merchandise to fans. The longer the game goes the more likely fans will get hungry and need to visit the concession stand. Get too cold for an evening game, grab a sweatshirt or blanket from the team store.
Efforts are being made to shorten games. Pitch clocks namely being used to shorten games. Though the not timed game is part of what makes baseball unique.
Looking at a graph from the Onley article I would say the marathon game isn’t the norm. In 2016 34 percent of 185 extra-inning games went 12 or more innings. Only 185 games out of 4,900 or so contests even made extra innings. That’s only 38 percent. In 2015 only 30 percent of extra-inning games went beyond 12 innings. 2014 and 2013 season numbers also average about 35 percent of games entering extras. So even if extras are being played most are ending after 12 and not extending into marathon territory.
The World Baseball Classic, as well as soft ball have a rule placing a runner in scoring position to begin extra innings. This would create more opportunities to conclude the game by driving home that runner. It is an option to be used if things get too bad, but sometimes one swing and its over in the bottom of inning 13. No guarantees that runner scores and the game ends earlier.
As for depleting lineups and injuries that is a concern. The longer you play the more people you have to use and the more stress on player’s bodies. However, players can get injured at any time during any contest. It’s not just an extra innings thing. Having players play longer can also tire them out. However, there is a bench. How the bench is used is a strategy that can make, or break the game. Though both teams are playing equally long and have the same issues to deal with. If tired players are a concern call players up from the minors and give the starters a rest, or use reserves for a day. Breaks are allowed you don’t have to play all 162 games. Maybe schedule a couple minute break in between innings if games get too late.
Though I would say one of the worst things is the idea that a relief corps of specialists can only pitch in certain points isn’t helping. Go your one inning and your toast. Then possibly have to waste a starter in a situation that counts the same as the next day’s game. The idea of having pitchers and firemen may help with this. View my arguments for it here.
Though I would say the biggest supporting issue with ties is close sure. Fans want to know who won and lost. Wins and losses are the front of the standings. Things need to have an ending to satisfy viewers. Wins excite the viewer, losses sadden and ties are ho hum. If baseball doesn’t want to move even more toward ho hum normal rules for extra innings should apply.