Should Major League Baseball Place A Twelve-Inning Limit On Extra Inning Games? My Take On It

I was looking up topics for a cultural geography presentation fall semester of my senior year of college. Originally I wanted to do the cultural diffusion of languages, however, I was unable to since the professor would be discussing it in class. One of the alternatives my professor was doing a project on baseball in Japan.

Being a fan of baseball, I instantly did chose the Japanese baseball topic. I loved researching the topic, and I loved presenting it to the class. Something that really piqued my interest was the fact that after 12 innings, the game ends, no matter the score. Considering the fact I had presented my project during the 2018 World Series; it was interesting timing.

I remember Game Three of the 2018 World Series quite clearly. I was following the game along quite closely. Since I didn’t have the strongest of feelings towards either team playing in the Fall Classic (another term for the World Series) that year, I wanted the World Series to be over, quick and painless. The third game was pretty far from quick and painless in my opinion. The game lasted nearly seven and a half hours, the longest game in World Series history.

I wanted so badly to fall asleep because I had an eight-hour shift at my receptionist job scheduled to start at 8:00 the following morning. I couldn’t. The game was tied for so long that I was starting to go a little bit crazy. I tried to fall asleep, but I wanted to follow along to the game, too. I fell asleep only after the game ended with a game-winning home run from Los Angeles’ Max Muncy.

That was at about two o’clock in the morning. I had to get out of bed at around six-thirty in the morning to get ready for work and walk across my university’s campus to my job. I worked my eight-hour shift on only four and a half hours of sleep.

I’m not alone. I am adamant that there a number of people who have stayed at a ball game that has gone to extra innings, or people that have gone into work looking and feeling like figurative zombies because their east coast team has played a very long game against a west coast team.

I mentioned on my post about my Top Ten Favorite Colorado Rockies Moments that I dislike extra inning baseball games very much. I don’t see extra innings as “free baseball.” I don’t see them as extra fun in the sport I love following along to. Rather, I see it as a source of unnecessary stress and drama. My first thought is never, Yay! More baseball! Love this sport! As soon as I see the words “extra innings” or “free baseball,” I immediately think, You have got to be kidding me. I want this to stop. If this goes 13-19 innings, I will scream bloody murder.

I remember telling my sister one time when I was younger that I was really worried about a Colorado Rockies game going late because it was later in the night. She reassured me that it will be okay because California was in a different time zone than us. I think that’s something that caused me to become strongly opposed to extra innings.

One of the games that really sticks out to me is a 22-inning game between the Rockies and the San Diego Padres, which happened in 2008. Just thinking about that makes me exhausted. First of all, the game lasted almost six and a half hours. That game finally ended at almost half-past one in the morning. I could probably write a seven-page book review on the Mike Lupica novel Summer Ball in that time, if I write fast enough. If I was at a game that long, I would have needed to drink a venti cold brew coffee with a triple shot of espresso to stay awake.

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Tokyo Yakult Swallows pitcher Yuuki Shichijo (Credit: Wikimedia)

Secondly, all I can think of is how badly I feel for those players. They had to play the equivalent of two games plus four innings. That has to drain a lot of stamina out of the players, not to mention the coaches and managers! They probably were just exhausted and wanted to go to sleep. If a game this brutally long was played the night before an afternoon game, I can only imagine how much of a toll that will take.

During that very, very long game, Colorado’s Yorvit Torreabla and San Diego’s Josh Bard were the catchers for the entire game. I can only imagine how exhausted and in pain they had to have been. There were three stretches, during the seventh, fourteenth, and 21st innings. My arms and lower body get beyond tired just thinking about this.

Number three, the grounds crew would probably feel exhausted from a late game as well. I speak from personal experience as a former concessions worker myself. When I was a junior in college, I would sometimes sell concessions at hockey games. I remember when one of the games went into overtime. I was getting ready to clean up the Dippin’ Dots station I was assigned to when fans came to get more food. I still kept a happy demeanor and helped them get their delicious treats.

Fans get hungry during all hours of sporting events. I remember I had to coax my sister to get dinner at a ball game several times before she agreed. She went to get food in the middle of the game. I almost got frozen yogurt from a helmet-shaped bowl, but the concessions were closed. I’m not sure if concessions stands reopen for baseball games because I have never stayed at a ball game long enough to experience extra innings. If they are, I bet the staff would get exhausted and hope for an ending soon.

I will speak again from experience, this time when I was a security agent for college football games. It can get exhausting. By the end of the football games, I was hot or cold (depending on the weather), words couldn’t describe how tired I felt, and my feet were quite sore by the end of my shift. I can only imagine how tired, hungry, and achy the staff felt that game.

Players, fans, and staff aren’t the only ones affected by these long games, however. I imagine that this takes a toll on the social media team. Working for a Major League Baseball team sounds like a lot of fun, and I have seen MLB teams’ social media staff, from the Rockies to the Detroit Tigers, the Miami Marlins to the Oakland Athletics, write posts that prove their dedication and love of the jobs.

I will picture myself as a baseball team’s social media staff member. I’ve posted a few artsy videos and have revealed some projects that I have spent the past several hours working on. I’ve been keeping fans updated with these projects, new merchandise, and visitors from players, as well as in-game updates. Depending on whether or not the game is a “slugfest” (a game in which both teams frequently hit to the bases and score runs), my brain would probably feel like a bowl of maple brown sugar oatmeal with al the updates and other projects going on.

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Dante Bichette after hitting a fourteenth-inning walk-off home run in 1995 (Credit: YouTube/MLB)

If a game goes to extra innings, be it a slugfest, a “pitchers’ duel” (where pitchers and defensive players from both teams work together to limit the runs their opponent scores), or neither of those types of game, I’m going to feel emotionally burnt out. I empathize with the Boston Red Sox’s and Los Angeles Dodgers’ social media teams during that eighteen-inning Fall Classic game. I bet they were both mentally exhausted by perhaps the fourteenth inning of the game.

If the long, extra-innings game go the night before a matinee (mid-day) game, then I can only imagine how physically and mentally exhausted the social media staff had to feel. My heart especially goes out to the losing team’s staff who are probably already tired and are receiving posts messages from fans who are in an exhausted fit of disappointment and irritability.

I am all for placing a limit on how long these games go. This will be very beneficial for several parties, from the players to the fans. With this limit in place, the physical and mental health of players will be better. Catchers will not have the aching knees that Torreabla and Bard had during that 22-inning marathon of a ballgame in 2008. Position players will get an extra chance at extra rest to keep themselves healthy and ready for the next day. Pitchers will get a chance to rest up for their next appearance.

Managers will have to worry much less about making roster and pitching changes, and they will have peace of mind knowing their players will be better rested for the next game. Fans will have a chance to return home from the stadium feeling much less exhausted, and they won’t have to worry about balancing getting extra sleep with seeing the game’s outcome. Grounds and concessions crew will get a chance to rest up for the next day’s spectators. Lastly, social media staff will get to unwind and prepare for future games and projects.

How will it affect who wins a series between two teams, you may ask? Good question! With the game ending in a tie between the two teams, at the end of the series, a point system would be implemented: two points for a win, one point for a tie, no points for a loss. At the end of the series, if a game ends in a tie, the team with the most points from all games played wins the series.

Some people may wonder, that’s a decent way of determining a winner, but what if most or all of the games end in a tie? That’s a valid and highly understandable concern. In fact, Justin Turner of the Los Angeles Dodgers proposed having a home run derby if both teams are tied after the tenth inning. To break the tie in points caused by ties, players can have a home run derby later on in the season. The team who wins the home run derby wins the series that was riddled with tie games.

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Tom Murphy and Gonzales German of the Colorado Rockies celebrate a win over the Los Angeles Dodgers after a sixteen-inning game in 2015 (Credit: Rox Pile)

All in all, I will support an extra-inning limit similar to Japan’s in Major League Baseball because it will improve the emotional and physical health for so many people. Players, fans, and staff alike shouldn’t have to push themselves to pull through for innings upon innings upon innings, especially if the game lasts 22 innings or even longer. Extra inning games cost players stamina, interfere with staff health, and force fans to play “devil’s advocate” (pick between  options that they don’t necessarily like). A limit will be beyond beneficial.

However, it will be worth it to put in a trial run first. If a shortened MLB season happens, it wouldn’t be a bad time to see how this goes. I would say that 27 out of the 30 MLB teams would have to approve of the limit before implementing it as a rule. If necessary, the trial run can last into MLB Spring Training in 2021. If the rule is implemented, and a home run derby is absolutely necessary to break a tie, fans should get to see that derby.

Speaking of a tie-breaking home run derby, there should be a trial for that, too. At spring training, teams can host a few mock tiebreaker home run derbies before exhibition games start, four to seven at maximum. If 27 teams approve of the derby plan, it can become a rule.

What are your thoughts on a minimum? Do you believe it’s a good way to protect health and well-being of spectators, staff, and players; or do you believe it will ruin Major League Baseball and that extra innings should be left alone? Let me know in the comments.

SOURCES:

https://www.si.com/mlb/2018/10/27/world-series-game-3-unlike-anything-weve-ever-seen-before

https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2020/04/poll-should-mlb-adopt-tied-games-in-2020-or-beyond.html

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