Baseball’s pace of play people have had some well intentioned ideas (trying to cut down on the deliberate time waste between pitches), some ideas I don’t care for (I still think you need to earn your stupid intentional walk), and a few ideas that are downright terrible, like starting extra innings with a runner on second base.
Imagine overtime in hockey if nobody was allowed to touch or get in the way of anyone else until each team had taken at least two clear shots at the opposing net. That would be silly. Yet somehow, this foolishness got to the experimentation stage in the minors. I hadn’t heard much about how it was going until I found this, which leads me to surmise that it’s going about as well as anyone who thought about it for a minute would have guessed it would go.
The game was between the Phillies affiliate, the Clearwater Threshers, and the Yankees affiliate, the Tampa Tarpons of the Florida State League. It was only a scheduled seventh inning game, so the extra frame was the eighth inning.
The details: Tampa starter Deivi Garcia tossed seven perfect innings, but it was tied 0-0 at the end of seven. Clearwater began the top of the eighth with an automatic runner on second. He went to third on an error. Two batters later, he scored when a Thresher batter grounded out to first base. Tampa went down in order in the bottom of the eighth and that was the ballgame.
If you’re going to defense yourself out of a perfect game, a no-hitter and a win, that’s fine. Things happen sometimes. But giving the other team a giant head start feels both lame and unfair.
If you really want to do something about extra innings, I have an idea. Maybe somebody has already come up with it, but for now I’ll call it mine.
I mentioned overtime in hockey. Let’s treat extra innings that way. To be clear, I’m talking about overtime before they instituted the shootout, which is also bad. Hockey games should not be won and lost by skills competition. If shootouts were any good, we’d be using them in the playoffs. So no, I’m not suggesting that tie baseball games be settled by home run derby. What I am suggesting is that if extras are required, you play one inning. If nobody can win after that, the game ends in a tie and each team gets half a game in the standings. You know that no game is ever going to go on hours longer than it should and at the end everyone gets something useful for being equally good or bad at their jobs.