In the wake of the New York Mets’ 16-inning victory over the Miami Marlins on Thursday night, Joel Sherman assessed the situation and decided that allowing ties in Major League Baseball would be a prudent thing to do. His analysis yielded some useful fruit. His conclusion, however, is way off.
Ties don’t belong in baseball, at least competitive baseball. There has never been a groundswell of support to change the status quo and usher in a new world resembling soccer. There shouldn’t be one now. Merely suggesting 3-3 and 7-7 final scores should become a staple takes courage, and for that Sherman deserves some credit.
His argument is not devoid of some valid points. Marathon games mean a diminished audience, an increased risk of injury, and pose all kinds of challenges for the coaches matching wits. Sherman does yeoman’s work showing the enormous toll the 16-inning game had on each team. He correctly identifies commissioner Rob Manfred as a proactive and out-of-the-box hand on the helm.
And while it’s tough to argue that these neverending games are good for baseball, it is accurate to point out that they are a part of baseball. Games have been played until there is a winner because that is how the game is played. This isn’t an idea that’s outgrown its usefulness or a relic of the past.
Holding firm to a no-tie existence is not evidence of stubbornness or a reluctance to change, any more than believing a batter gets three strikes or a team gets three outs in an innings. It’s very basic, fabric-of-the-game stuff.
As much as baseball has evolved over the years, playing until there’s a winner has been a constant. To reverse course and change something big like this would be altering the wrong thing, fixing the wrong issue.
Ushing in an era of ties would be an admission that baseball has become profoundly broken — not overnight but through decades of overspecification in the arms race. There is nothing wrong, per se, with starters only going five innings by design. There’s nothing wrong with lefthanders coming out of the bullpen to face one batter. But it’s not the only way to play the game.
There’s a simple way to not run out of pitching. Take off the kid gloves and let them throw a full inning or, gasp, two full innings of relief.
The Mets and Marlins used a combined 17 pitchers in the game. Part of the problem was exacerbated by the brief outings by starters Robert Gsellman (4.2 innings) and Wei-Yin Chin (3 innings). Seven of those hurlers through one inning or less. New York’s Josh Edgin threw all of six pitches. Jerry Blevins threw nine and Addison Reed 16. Miami’s Brad Ziegler was taxed with 12 and Junichi Tazawa 15.
Both staffs may have “run out of pitching” but they didn’t get to such a situation without frivolously wasting it. I realize no one goes into a game thinking it will carry on for 16 innings but perhaps there should be some impetus on managers to gameplan for the possibility.
Every Major League team has the ability to put 20 innings’ worth of pitching on the mound for a given game. At that point managers can burn another starter or blink and put in a position player. Neither are desirable situations but extra innings aren’t intended to be a reward. They’re the tax of not handling business during regulation.
Perhaps the most unpalatable part about even considering ties is that they are envisioned as some sort of lifejacket to teams from themselves. Players and managers may have their strings pulled by front offices who see things in risk-management and dollar sign terms, but they are not helpless. Two competing teams are capable of resolving games on the field. Perhaps that means an upcoming starter has to work. Perhaps that means a club has to decide a late night isn’t worth it and send the utility third baseman to the hill.
It just seems a bit pathetic that all these years after Bud Selig threw his hands up in exasperation at an All-Star Game tie, there’s suggestion that baseball routinely do so during the regular season. We all remember how unsatisfying that night was — enough to turn an exhibition game into the determinative factor in the World Series.
Sure, people would get used to ties over time. Then again, they get used to all kinds of crummy things out of necessity. But they don’t have a place in the game now nor should they in the future. A baseball game has a winner, no matter how micromanaged and specialized a 25-man roster has become. Dramatically altering the game to this is backward.