Ties in Baseball Are an Anathema, Cannot Become a Reality

Baseball games have a winner.
Baseball games have a winner. / Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

If Major League Baseball returns this year, there will be a tension between trying to play as many games as possible and facilitating safe working conditions for the players, without whom there isn't much of a sport. The crystal ball is cloudy. Opening Day could come in early June, in late July, or perhaps not at all. It's important to plan for a best-case scenario and guard for a worst-case one.

An idea that's gained traction recently is twice-a-week doubleheaders. The workload would be slightly reduced by going to seven-inning games in these, a dramatic change flying in the face of 150-plus years of tradition. Abbreviated contests have been pushed for by a misguided crowd for years. They believe less of something will result in more people enjoying it, which is patently false. But strange times lead to strange bedfellows, so here goes.

Seven-inning doubleheaders would be an acceptable adaptation. It almost pains me to say this. To be very clear, this is a one-year exception. In 2021, they should go away forever -- and likely will, because they are so bad for the bottom line.

Another plan floated is to do away with extra innings or cap games at 10 innings. This is obviously aimed at reducing marathons that go deep into the night, deplete pitching staffs, and cause even more strain on players. While the plan's heart is in the right place, it is absolutely a non-starter for me --- and most baseball fans' minds, I'd bet -- if ties are on the table.

Mike Greenberg and Mark Teixiera discussed the possibility on Get Up this morning with a striking matter-of-factness. And yes, conceivably MLB could just interject the concept of ties into the sport. But that would be so jarring and antithetical to the spirit of the game. Experimenting with rules to shorten extra-inning games in the minors, like starting with a runner on second base, is one thing. To just shut the lights off without determining a winner is another.

Baseball is unique in that teams do not have the same amount of strategic options to employ in order to play for a win instead of a tie. They always want to score the maximum amount of runs. Even scores after nine innings just happen.

It's true that 95 percent of games are decided within 10 innings. In a hypothetical 100-game season, though, that's an average of five ties. What do they do with the standings at that point? Go to a hockey-like point total, or stick with winning percentage? Are fans to get their calculators out and figure out what the value of the Red Sox' 50-34-6 record is against the Yankees' 49-33-8?

Tinkering and adapting to a scary new world is imperative. But one way to hurt the game and disappoint those pining for baseball as a salve is to allow ties. Can you imagine, after all this, fans braving health and spending their hard-earned money only to see a 3-3 final? That is not a good place to be. That is a sure way to harm the rebuild.

Look, there are no easy answers. Yet there are simple maxims. There's no tying in baseball. Not now. Not ever.