Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Getting to Second Base

Seemed like an appropriate post topic for Valentine’s Day.

Recently Major League Baseball has announced that it is toying with the idea of starting extra innings with a man at second base. In fact, they’re looking at giving it a trial run in the minor leagues.

Along with many other people, my initial reaction was “Get your stupid gimmicky plays the hell out of my game.”

My problem is, I’m not sure what my real issue with it is. In fact, the more I try to answer that question to myself, the more I think I might actually like the idea.

First, I don’t know how the logistics will work out. I haven’t read that much about it. I don’t know who picks the runner, or which innings. I don’t know if driving in a man who starts at second still gets you an RBI, or if the pitcher still gets an earned run. But, the concept is starting to be interesting.

Because, I hate extra innings. Well, tenth innings aren’t bad. But, the sixteenth? That’s too long for a game to go one. And, not because I think the actual time of the game is too long. It is, but I’m not going to change rules just because exciting baseball is going too long. (Nor am I going to change rules just to add excitement. I’m looking at you stupid Wild Card play-in game.) No, my issue is that the longer a game goes, the more prone to fluke occurrences it becomes. The better team starts to lose its advantage, and dumb luck comes into play. 

Which team had an off day the day before, so has a fresher bullpen? Which ball takes a funny bounce off the wall away from a defender? Which bad umpire call changes the make-up of an inning? Which team had a position player that happens to get three ground outs instead of three ground ball singles?

I know that the solution to all of these problems is to just win the game in nine innings. But, we’ve already passed that point. We have two evenly matched teams that need to decide a winner.

So, maybe starting them both off with a runner as a way to actually make it about baseball isn’t a bad thing. It’s not a coin flip. It’s not a home run derby. In order to score the runner, you still need to make a baseball play. You still need to execute. In order to prevent the runner, you still need to make plays. You need to make managerial decisions. 

It’s better than deciding a game on penalty kicks. Those are flukes. Or a shootout. Same thing. It’s better than making it easier to score by taking away a defender. Or adding an out. Those are altering the game itself. How it’s played. 

Of course, it’s also possible that it won’t solve the problem. Perhaps games that used to have scoreless extra innings will now have 1-1 extra innings. That’s the sort of thing that the trial in the minor leagues could sort out.

And maybe it should only come into play late in extra innings. Say, starting in the thirteenth. By then you’ve about reached your limit of true competition anyway. If a ball hitting the second base bag is going to decide the game, why not a guy starting at second? At least this way is fair to both teams.

It’s really starting to grow on me.

How about you?

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