Photo Credit: The New York Times
The MLB has taken up a recent interest in trying to shorten games. But one issue they have yet to take on is the issue of games going into extra innings. Last season, 185 of 2,428 games went into extras, with several lasting six extra innings or longer. If the MLB really want to “shorten” games, extra innings should get some serious focus.
In no other sport are the overtime periods as dull, long and drawn out as baseball’s. In football, a touchdown wins the game, and there is one and only one 10-minute overtime period, which is shorter than a quarter. In hockey, the overtime periods can get long, but they’re all sudden-death. In basketball, the overtime periods aren’t nearly as long as quarters, and the odds of teams remaining tied for long with how many points are put up in basketball are small.
Baseball’s overtime format, however, is different. Of all sports, in a sport where there are currently only six teams averaging more than five runs per game, the overtime period can be endless. If no team has the lead at the end of an inning, they play on until someone does. And for what? The season is twice as long game-wise than any of those other sports, yet teams can need four, five and sometimes six hours to determine a winner of just one game because of how hard it is to get even a one-run a lead in a close game.
Let’s face it. One game in a season of 162 games should not be decided in a period of 18, 19 or even 20 innings. It makes no sense to decide the winner of a game when each team has their first baseman pitching after two games worth of baseball have already been played. It’s just not worth all the extra effort, especially when neither team is at full strength.
What the MLB needs to do is limit the number of extra innings that can be played to three. That way, a game can’t even go an extra one-third of a game beyond its regulation period. All of the other sports’ overtime formats limit that to an extent, and they are all far more action-packed than baseball is just by their nature. Why should baseball be the sport subject to endless games?
This would not create an overload of tie games, either. It would hardly affect the standings at all. It would simply stop the games that would potentially go to double the length of a regular game before they even get close to that point. The 10-inning, 11-inning and 12-inning games would not be affected, and they all happen more so than the really long games do. Those aren’t the dull, long and drawn out games that the league needs to do away with.
This is an issue that affects more than players, too. When a game on the west coast goes to 15 or 16 innings or longer, you’ll have people up until at least 3:00 AM ET getting standings and statistics updated. It’s insane that these people have to stay up and wait for games that are so pointless just so they can earn a living.