By Gerard Lombardo – @getoffatkenmore
I expected to walk out of the euphoria of last night’s Arcade Fire concert with alerts on my phone along the lines of:
Bleacher Report: Sox, Sale get the better of Tampa Bay in series opener
MLB At Bat: Andriese spins a gem; AL East lead down to 2
Mom: R U safe???????
Instead, no baseball alerts. No mom messages. Just the Boom Beach app reminding me that my troops are ready for battle, a slew (okay.. 1) of new Tinder matches, and EBay informing me of a sold item. As I made my way through the crowd of revelers, stepping on heels of dozens, my fat little thumbs progressed on my outdated iPhone to get to the box score of Boston’s matchup. Only to find out that to the surprise of no one… the game was in extra innings. Again.
At what point do you, the readers, stop caring about bonus baseball? My interest piques in the 10th. The 11th inning is enjoyable, and the 12th is watchable. But once the tilt hits the teens I don’t have much invested anymore. The outcome of the game is all that matters by then. I can sit on pins and needles, hanging on pitches 500-750, or binge on season one of Stranger Things or The OA. Because ultimately, superstitions are nonsensical and the final will be the final, no matter if it occurs in a 9 inning affair or a 19 inning barn burner. Interestingly enough, due to MLB’s pace of play, that has games on a nightly basis moving at the speed of a half asleep sloth, addressing extra innings isn’t the problem de juer right now. But that doesn’t mean it’s good for the sport. So, what exactly are the drawbacks of this matter?
- Injuries and fatigue- Pedroia fresh off the DL, nearly played himself into a doubleheader.
- Statistical nosedives- Pedroia, again, tough luck going 0-9 in a single game.
- Delayed travel plans- imagine flying from Seattle to Boston at 3am, losing three hours of sleep and suiting up for a Sunday matinee?
- Young fans at the game- first game ever? Tough. You have school in the morning.
- Older fans that have work in the am- Sleep > Sports.
Not to mention we’re not doing pace of play any favors, or the park employees -concessions, cleaners, security- that want their day to end at some point too.
Well, something must be good about it, right? Here’s what I came up with:
- More money for the owners.
- An extra 1-2 hours of baseball for the diehards, who already watch 500 hours of baseball per season anyways.
With those validities in mind, at what point does the commissioner say enough is enough, and begin accruing ideas of change to aid in the effort of shortening baseball, without taking away from the enjoyment factor? I’d hope he’s already begun, because Boston has now played 60 innings of bonus baseball, by far the most in either league, essentially elongating an exhausting season as is from 162-168 games.
The deterring factor of making adjustments to extra innings is the effect it would have on America’s Pastime, which is notoriously resilient to change. Do you go to a Win-Loss-Tie format, as the not so popular NHL does? How about the brilliant idea of starting a runner at 2nd base each half inning, which could essentially add time to the game by increasing a club’s offensive output every half inning? Do you go outside the box and have your cleanup hitter go to the plate with 5 outs in his pocket, the bullpen catcher on the mound, and solve the game with an unofficial home run derby?
There is no easy solution. There is no perfect way to cap each game at either the 9 inning or 3 hour mark. Adjustments will have to be made, compromises will have to be ladened, but somehow, Earth will continue to rotate on its axis. Because the fact of the matter is, it’s 2017. The internet, social media, and daily advances in technology have allowed people to progress pass the 1950’s standards of entertainment, which involved either drinking a Coca Cola on the street corner and tucking cigarettes into your t-shirt’s rolled sleeve, or heading to the Drive In with Susie from next door for an Alfred Hitchcock double feature.
ESPN, NESN, Buster Olney, Peter Gammons et al have ensured that baseball is a round the calendar sport; it doesn’t have to be a round the clock sport too.