How the Red Sox and Other Teams Could Avoid Torturous Extra-Inning Games
The Red Sox and Yankees faced off in The Bronx in July, with the opening game of the series clocking in at four – yes, four – hours long. It wasn’t even a hit parade, but rather a well-played, tightly-contested 5-4 Red Sox victory.
In the Playoffs, the Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros faced off in a game than ran nearly six-and-a-half hours that finally ended when the Astros scored the game's first and only run in the 18th inning.
Extra innings are terrible. They are boring for all, and enjoyable for no one. Baseball is, quite literally, the only major sport where people dread overtime. Even beloved commentators are walking away thanks to this needless slog.
But as baseball flies increasingly under the radar thanks to NBA free agency and NFL training camps, you may have missed a wrinkle added to this year’s All-Star Game. If the game was still tied after nine innings, it was to go to a “mini” Home Run Derby to determine the winner.
A great idea! But why isn’t this a permanent solution for all games? Enough of this runner on second nonsense, or allowing ties (unless, that is, fans who attended the game get refunds). Instead, we turn to baseball’s answer to the shootout. It’s…#SuddenDeathDerby.
MLB’s All-Star Game version calls for three batters who get three swings off a coach, lobbing in meatballs no doubt to help get the win. In official competition, this likely wouldn’t fly. Who tunes in on a whim to watch three guys hit? And how long before one team accuses the other of hiring a “ringer” coach just to throw meatballs (perhaps a member of this year’s Red Sox in disguise…)? I’ve pitched a similar idea to friends for years, so it was somewhat gratifying to see baseball think alike. But here are some tweaks to perfect the #SuddenDeathDerby.
• If the score remains tied after 10 innings, everyone comes off the field. A pitching machine is brought onto the field, and set at 95 miles-per-hour with an umpire to load pitches (while shielded by a batting practice screen – a.k.a., another product placement opportunity - who wouldn't want to see the Geico Gecko take a liner?).
• Each team chooses nine batters. They can be any nine, even those subbed out of the game. Imagine a dude with his hair in a towel blasting the game-winner...
• Each batter gets two swings to hit one home run (sorry, all you Derek Jeters - you can't just keep leaning in and taking pitches, either).
• The team with the most home runs wins (there's no "New Math" in #SuddenDeathDerby.)
• If tied after nine batters, it goes to one-on-one until one team hits a homer and one doesn’t.
• When the 10th ends, MLB and the teams involved tweet out a #SuddenDeathDerby alert (maybe the "clap-clap, clap-clap-clap" from John Fogerty's "Centerfield"?).
• Each #SuddenDeathDerby is broadcast live on the MLB Network and MLB’s social media (the six hour documentary on knuckleballs can wait).
• Each month, a #SuddenDeathDerby montage is posted to YouTube (always end on someone's windshield getting smashed).
• A running tally is kept for longest #SuddenDeathDerby home runs (folks dig the longball...).
Why for Baseball:
• No more overworked bullpens or position players pitching (or confusion over when that is allowed – no disrespect Dave, drinks still on us forevah.).
• Each game is finite; there are no more “marathon extras” which, again, are desired by no one.
• With a definitive time restraint set for each game, it is easier to schedule more afternoon games following night games on weekends/getaways.
Why It Works for Fans:
• Fans can again be excited about pitchers’ duels, getting the best of both worlds: hurlers at their best, and some fireworks at the end to settle the score.
• Similarly, fans no longer have to worry about games running too long, or leaving just before a game ends. They know going in that this will be over by the 9th, 10th, or the #SuddenDeathDerby.
• It sure is fun to catch a home run ball – and you get a bunch of chances in #SuddenDeathDerby. Those outfield seats nobody wants suddenly become more valuable.
• As #SuddenDeathDerby takes off, and fans rush to buy said outfield seats, perhaps the resale value of “premium” seats lowers, making games more affordable for all. (#Rinemanomics)
• Imagine Mike Trout getting ahold of a pitching machine when it means a win or a loss (thereby finally allowing mainstream America to know Mike Trout is a great baseball player, and not the mounted, robotic fish that sings “Take Me to the River").
#SuddenDeathDerby. It’s for Twitter. It’s for fans. It’s time to update baseball.