Ecological Extra Innings: Part One

Sunday, April 4, 2021

I detest the new rule about extra innings in MLB games. If you haven’t heard, it goes like this: in the top half of the tenth inning, a runner is placed at second base with no outs. The result is obscenely predictable: the winning run can score without a single hitter reaching base safely. If the score is still tied after nine and a half innings, the home team can win with a sacrifice bunt and a fielder’s choice ground ball that never leaves the infield.

Is this some perverse kind of nostalgia for dead ball era offense?

“Did the fans vote for this?” Paul Vangelisti asked me the other day.

I don’t think so.

Since those who own the game believe they have the right to change the rules, I certainly have at least an equal right to propose more interesting variants of the rules.

Thought Experiment:
If you are (out of some unforgivable affront to Baseball Tradition and the Individual Talent) going to change the rules about extra innings, at least make it require some choices on the part of managers that will make for an interesting conversation after the game.

The tenth inning should be played like any other inning. It should remain the purest continuation of “extra innings.”

The eleventh inning, should it be required, gives the manager of each team a choice: play it “normally” (hitter at the plate, no runners on base, no outs) OR start with a runner on first base and one out.

The twelfth inning, should it be required, gives each team the same choice: play it “normal” OR with runners on first and second base, but with TWO outs.

The 13th inning, and every subsequent inning, should they be required, gives each team the same choice: play it “normally” or with the bases loaded, and TWO outs.

The idea of the increments is to provide the defense with the maximum possibilities for force-outs. I believe the goal is to eliminate games that last past 15 innings. My proposal would accomplish that goal and provide far more drama and debate as to the wisdom of each manager’s choice.