With all due respect to current Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner, I would change one thing about the game if I were in his chair.
No more extra-inning games. None. Ever.
During Tuesday’s Flying Squirrels-Altoona Curve game at The Diamond that went 10 innings, an infielder and an outfielder pitched the final two innings for Richmond, and an infielder pitched a frame for the Curve.
No, it wasn’t Little League night. It was the sixth game of the Eastern League season.
Rando Moreno, a middle infielder, and outfielder Tyler Horan, a Virginia Tech alumnus, took the hill for the Squirrels, while Chase Simpson pitched for Altoona.
Well, because both teams were out of relief pitchers.
Well, because Tuesday night’s game came on the heels of Monday’s 12-inning contest.
There were no more pitchers left in either teams’ bullpen. None. So the managers had to go to position players to finish Tuesday’s game so as not to risk injury and/or fatigue to their pitching staffs.
This is a problem.
There are only so many arms and so many days of rest in Minor League Baseball. And there are so many chances for injuries to occur.
The minors are about player development — getting guys to the next level. They’re not about player detriment.
That’s why extra-inning games need to stop.
It not only messes up the scheduled appearances for relievers with teams playing seven games in as many days, it also risks injury for pitchers throwing too much, too often.
And then there’s the fan factor.
How many fans who attend minor league games actually care about the outcome?
Few. Very few.
Sure, there are fans, some die-hard, who want to see the hometown team win. But out of the 5,000-6,000 fans who attend a Squirrels game on average, most of them will leave The Diamond happy because of the fan experience and the atmosphere the front office and game-day crew create, not because of the outcome.
But keep fans there too long and delay those fireworks with a row full of antsy kids, well, that’s a different story.
Extra-inning games help no one.
Sure, players — competitors, all of them — care about wins and losses. But not as much as they care about improving and making it to the next level. They’re playing in the minors to get to the majors one day. If they win the Eastern League title along the way, that’s great, but it’s not the ultimate goal.
If Hotshot Prospect’s team loses a game, but he goes 3 for 4 with three RBIs, he’s not losing too much sleep. If his team wins, but he goes 0 for 4 with three strikeouts, he’s more concerned about his average dipping than his team’s winning percentage increasing.
The outcome isn’t the highest priority on anyone’s mind. So let’s just end all minor league games after nine innings, regardless of the score.
Of course, we live in a society that needs a winner. So if we must have one, here are some ideas to help determine it:
- Have the managers dress up in those oversized Sumo wrestling suits and go a round or two …
- A best-of-seven series of rock, paper, scissors …
- Home run derby …
- Dress up in oversized uniforms and sprint around the bases …
- Spin around a bat 10 times and run to first …
- A dance off … a game of horseshoes … a three-legged race …
Anything to settle on a winner. Anything … except extra innings.