Following a 19-inning, six hour nightmare of a game between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, sports talk radio and the general vicinities of office water coolers in those two great cities were both filled with discussion about Major League Baseball’s method for breaking tie games. Some people think extra innings should stick around because baseball is baseball and you don’t change it without sacrificing eight virgins to Cy Young and praying to Abner Doubleday until he responds via message scrawled in the infield dirt. Others think there’s no fucking reason for a game to go that fucking long in fucking April because they’ve actually got lives.
After a couple weeks of deep introspection, I find myself in the anti-extras camp, but for a different reason: pitcher health. Those extra innings put a ton of strain not just on the back end of the bullpen that immediately absorbs them but also on the other starters and relievers expected to make up for their overworked teammates in future games. We’re at the point where Tommy John surgery isn’t an emergency procedure so much as it’s a rite of passage for young hurlers. Why not try to protect them a little bit better? Forget oil, trees, or sprightly young pop stars: quality arms are our nation’s most important natural resource and should be treated as such.
I’m fine with extra innings in the playoffs. Hell, I’d even be ok with settling important games that way in September. But early in the season? Nah, bro. Let’s get these games over with. I’ve got a few ideas as to how, listed in descending order of reality and ascending order of HOLY SHIT LET’S FUCKING DO THAT.
1. Remove a player from each lineup in the tenth. The NHL opens up room on the ice to encourage scoring by removing a player from the ice in overtime. MLB should borrow that idea and require each team to drop a fielder. Just think of the tactical decisions and the hilarity sure to ensue when some of the league’s…ah…slower managers are thrust into situations where they have to choose between having three outfielders and four infielders. Think of the exotic shifts, the wild plays, and the thoroughly confused color commentators. Sign me up.
2. Home run derby. Let’s borrow another idea from the NHL: the shootout. Each team picks one slugger. Each slugger gets ten pitches from a coach or teammate. Most dingers wins. A tie goes to the team with the most fans in attendance. Sorry, Tampa.
3. Mound sumo. Each team sends its tubbiest bastard out to the center of the diamond for a winner-take-all rumble. If the thought of a titanic clash between the Panda and Bartolo Colon doesn’t get you super excited for what would otherwise be a kind of dull mid-August series then you, sir, have no business reading this blog and should probably have a doctor make sure you still know how to have fun. Can anyone out-sumo CC Sabathia or will he just swallow his opponents whole? If your designated fat guy is out due to injury, do you dial up the next biggest dude or do you get creative and send a scrappy utility infielder like Brock Holt and hope he can win with grit and moxie? Will Dmitri Young will come out of retirement to serve as the Astros’ enforcer? Let’s make this one happen!