Don’t like NFL overtime? You’ll Hate ‘sudden-death’ baseball that originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Last weekend, many people found out, or had a disturbing reminder, how much they hate the NFL’s overtime rules.
If you find yourself complaining about what happens when time runs out in the fourth quarter of a professional football game, you’re definitely going to hate “sudden-death” baseball.
That’s right, a version of the NFL’s overtime rules is coming to baseball. Not Major League Baseball, so don’t worry about that. But the Frontier League — an MLB “affiliate league” with no affiliate teams, four of which play in the Illinois towns of Schaumburg, Joliet, Crestwood and Sauget — is implementing a drastic adjustment to additional innings for 2022.
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It goes like this: If play is tied after the regulatory nine innings, play moves to the 10th, where the current (still “new” to most fans) MLB extra innings rules take over. That means a runner starts both the top and bottom half of the 10th on second base to increase the odds of a run being scored, the tie being broken and everyone going home.
It gets interesting though when the game is still tied after 10 innings. On the 11th, the home manager may decide whether he wants his team to bat or pitch. The batting team starts the 11th with a runner on first base, and if it scores before three outs, it wins. If the pitching team retires the outs and prevents the batting team from scoring, it wins, with no hitting and no bottom of the 11th needed either.
I told you you’d hate that. Though it sounds like an improvement over what the Frontier League did last year when it used a Home Run Derby to break the extra-inning ties.
MLB is still trying to win people over with its new (debuted in 2019) extra-inning rules. Admittedly, I’m not a fan, even though I applaud the league’s overall efforts to try and avoid marathon races. That’s good for the players, who have to play the next day. That’s good for the teams, who have to burn through a bullpen and put themselves behind the pitching 8-ball for the next few days. That’s good for fans, who don’t need another hour on top of the likely three and a half they just spent watching nine innings. But I don’t think assigning freerunners is the best way to do it because it penalizes pitchers and fielders when maybe they didn’t do anything but exactly what they were supposed to do.
What is likely is that people like me will continue to grumble about the free runner rules until there is less and less grumbling and it is hard to remember the time before the free runner rules and that is exactly what baseball is .
“Sudden-death” baseball may be too radical to even attempt at the highest level. There are apparently no signs that this is one of those situations where MLB has asked another league to experiment with possible rule changes. This is just something of the Frontier League, these rules invented by a former Frontier League manager.
If you’re excited about this innovation, head to one of those Chicagoland stadiums this summer and give it a try. If not, be glad this probably isn’t coming to Guaranteed Rate Field or Wrigley Field anytime soon.
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