Knock out round. Sudden death. You get the point. - Bill James
Look back at the history of baseball and you'll see nothing but tipping points. From bullpen usage to amphetamine abuse to small ball and steroids. At any point in baseball history there's some notable debate between the guys holding the rope and the ones trying to get into the club. Just in the last decade we've seen it touch: free agency, revenue distribution, draft manipulation, service time manipulation, farm system strategy, playoff format, strike zone automation, pace of play, instant replay, bullpen minimums, active roster size, the designated hitter, minor league player rights, freedom of expression aka pimping a bomb, using different baseballs and of course the immovable question of what to do with all those guys on steroids.
I'm sure I missed some big items but generally speaking that's some pretty heavy shit in the wheelbarrow. Baseball has the tendency to be very hard on itself which is why I couldn't love this pilot idea from the Pioneer League any more. Arguably the most lighthearted solution to one of this year's biggest questions: what to do with extra innings?
A lot of people are bent out of shape over the international tiebreaker rule of man-on-second with no outs to start the 10th. Some think the away team gets a distinct advantage. Others think it's just a stupid slap in the face to history. Personally I think there's almost nothing worse than going 14-innings on a Tuesday night only to lose 4-3 because the 8th arm in the bullpen has extremely shoddy command. Follow that up with a Wednesday day game where both teams are gassed top to bottom. Everyone from the hot dog vendor to your grandma listening on the AM is running on fumes. It's such a miserable experience that usually includes roster changes and off days for veterans and spot starts. And for what? The chance to lose over the course of an indeterminable time period because that's the way we've always done it?
That always seemed like a stupid rule because this game is long enough. 4 hours+ if we're in extras. 162 games a year with a guarantee that the Dodgers or Padres will win the pennant for the next 3 years. You could get a masters in business administration from the University of Phoenix with the projected time savings and now we're talking Opportunity Cost. Now we're getting sharp.
Do I think a 5-pitch home run derby is the ultimate answer? Probably not although it would be sweet because that would mean MLB would need a designated HR derby thrower for each team. That's my kind of job creation policy. That would be one of the most underrated-pressure filled positions in sports behind the holder, long-snapper and replay challenge video. Imagine taking the mound in front of 41,000 Cubs fans with the sole purpose of giving Javy Baez the perfect meatballs to beat the Cardinals at home on a Thursday night. That should get the juices flowing
Another thing I like is the strategy. Like does this ultimately create another spot on the bench for a Matt Stairs type? Because I'm all in favor of any rule change that prolongs those types of careers. That's a no brainer. We get to move the game forward in a lot of respects while still honoring the tradition of always having a place on the roster for some big donkey that can absolutely fucking mash baseballs to the moon and nothing else. The more baseball moves into a modern game the more we need to protect these national treasures.