Creating a Tie-Breaking System to Stop the Madness of 6-Hour MLB Games
While you were sleeping Monday, there were two Major League Baseball games being played deep into the night between the New York Mets and Miami Marlins and the Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics.
The Mets and Marlins had the benefit of starting at 7:05 p.m. ET, so even though they played 15 innings and over 5.5 hours, that contest ended around 12:30 a.m. on the east coast.
For the Angels and A's, they were already up against a clock for east-coast viewers after starting at 10:05 p.m. ET. When you throw in the fact that they went 19 innings for 6.5 hours, there were a lot of people who fell asleep when the game started and woke up to get ready for work before it ended after 4:30 a.m.
Things were so exhausting for the A's that, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports, Brandon Moss, who hit a walk-off two-run home run in the bottom of the 19th, had to give himself a shaving-cream pie to the face.
Several fans expressed some form of outrage or bewilderment on Twitter after the Angels-A's game ended that baseball doesn't have a tiebreaker after so many innings to prevent a game from going that deep into the night.
Fly Fishing Jays Fan felt that anyone who was left in O.co Coliseum deserved to be part of the action on the field.
Mick Collins gave fans a piece of pop-culture history that they could have gotten caught up on instead of sitting through the 6.5 hours the Angels and A's played.
Last night, an #MLB baseball game took 6 hours to complete, giving fans plenty of time to finish "War and Peace" between pitcher changes— Mick Collins (@mickcollins) April 30, 2013
Steven Beck actually provided a solution for the never-ending extra-inning games that is sure to tickle the fancy of some fans around the country.
If #MLB refuses to have a tie, they need a breaker. Something fresh. I suggest an end of game HR Derby. 10 outs, each batter. Most HRs wins— Steven Beck (@StevenTBeck) April 30, 2013
Since there seems to be some backlash against baseball for not having a time limit, wouldn't it be nice to have some solutions in hand in order to prevent fans from having to stay awake until 4:30 a.m. ET to see the end of a game?
Before we dive into some of the (completely hypothetical) scenarios that we have come up with, it should be noted that one of the great things about baseball is that it doesn't feel the pressure to be like the NFL, NBA or NHL by putting a time restriction on the game.
Baseball games are going to end when they end. It's like the old George Carlin routine talking about the differences between America's Pastime and football. The latter is "rigidly timed and it will end, even if we have to go to sudden death." The former has "no time limit, we don't know when it's going to end. We might have extra innings."
But we are not above playing with a few ideas just to see what might stick in a world where baseball does try to adopt a policy to avoid these extra-long affairs. Plus, we will present the flip-side of the argument and tell you why a given solution won't work.
Idea No. 1: Blast-off home run derby system
This scenario takes a little bit of Steven Beck's idea mentioned earlier and fashions it down to something more along the lines of what the NHL does with the shootout at the end of games.
Rather than give each batter 10 outs, you give them one swing. Just go all the way through the lineup 1-to-9, and the team with the most homers after the last hitter in the home team's lineup wins the game.
We can also put some small wrinkles in there, like teams can change pitchers once each time they run through the lineup. When your team is hitting, managers will be allowed to pinch-hit for one player, if they choose. But it has to be announced before your leadoff hitter steps up to the plate.
Since you can't eliminate extra innings altogether, teams can play into the 12th inning. If no one wins before that, then you jump into the blast-off system.
Why this solution won't work
As much fun as it would be for fans to get a glorified version of Home Run Derby, it isn't practical from a pitching standpoint. It would over-inflate strikeout totals, wreak havoc with ERA and could lead to a lot more arm injuries since pitchers will go all-out even more than normal to prevent home runs.
It also completely takes defense out of the equation. Even though there are surely some fans who don't like to think that being great with the glove plays a role in baseball, there is ample evidence out there to suggest otherwise.
Why take a fundamental part of the game away from a team that might be excellent defensively and not boast as much power throughout the lineup as its opponent?
Idea No. 2: College Football-esque Overtime System
Instead of doing a full-blown blast-off system, Major League Baseball could take a look at the train wreck that is college football's overtime system and decide to work with something like that.
For those not familiar, college football overtime works with teams getting the ball on the opponent's 25-yard-line. They play two overtimes like that before it is mandated that you go for a two-point conversion if you score a touchdown.
It is a completely ludicrous way to play a football game, because it puts the defense at a huge disadvantage and does a vast majority of the work for the offense.
If baseball wants to appeal to the masses who don't like its current system, it could start off by putting a runner on first for the first few extra frames. Then if things remain tied after, say, the 12th inning, runners will be placed on second base.
The rules for an inning will remain the same as they always were, with three outs signaling the end of a half-inning and the home team having the chance to tie or win the game in the bottom portion of the inning.
What's the best solution for MLB to prevent overly long games?
Why this solution won't work
As mentioned before, absolutely everything about the college football overtime system is an abomination. It puts the defense at a clear disadvantage just so the audience can get a little more offensive punch.
This solution would work better than the home run blast-off because it is closer to the game that we know and love, but it still isn't quite right since it is giving the offense an advantage by putting a player on base for no reason.
Even though most relief pitchers come out of the stretch anyway, there are a few who use a full wind-up, and we know that sometimes their stuff can be sharper that way. So to put them behind the eight ball just to try and end a game quicker is unfair.
Plus the deeper a game goes, the more likely it is that a team will use a starting pitcher who has had a few days of rest, unless he is one of their top starters, in this tie-game situation just to save some arms for the next day and not completely burn out the bullpen.
Idea No. 3: Stop trying to change the game and love it
Ultimately, when running through potential ideas to "prevent" six-hour baseball games, the one thing that I kept coming back to was how special it is what this sport has that no one else does.
Is it a disadvantage from a ratings perspective to have games ending at 4:30 a.m. on the east coast? Absolutely, no one can say that it isn't. But true fans are going to stick with a matchup either until it is over or by looking at the box score first thing in the morning.
David Schoenfield of ESPN.com noted that he "only" made it to 4 a.m. and also called it the game of the year, even though there is a whole lot of season left to go.
Baseball is not a game that lends itself to some sort of special overtime system, because it is so different from every other sport. It is impossible for one team to score runs during a portion of the game.
You can't eliminate fielders or put players on base just for the sake of trying to end a game early. There is no rational solution to implementing an overtime system in baseball other than the extra-innings system currently in place.
Fans of the game will always love seeing matchups go all night. Anyone who says they don't like it probably doesn't prefer to watch baseball, anyway.
It's not like you see a six-hour game every day, or even every year. This just happened to be a perfect storm of circumstances, with one game featuring two teams that don't have a lot of offensive firepower (New York-Miami) and another with two teams capable of scoring runs who kept going back and forth (Los Angeles-Oakland).
Remember, the Angels took the lead in the 15th inning before the A's tied the game once again on an Adam Rosales RBI single.
If long games were a real problem in baseball, then you could understand why there would be an issue. But how many games really last over four hours, excluding every Yankees-Red Sox matchup?
If you have a solution to baseball's extra-inning situation, or just want to talk about the sport, feel free to hit me up on Twitter by clicking the link below.
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