–As MLB officials look to the (delayed) start of the season, suggestions need to be made for how to get the schedule back on track. One writer brings a proposal to the league office.

Commentary by Quinn Sloan

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the MLB has postponed the start of its season indefinitely. In fact, the season has been suspended indefinitely. At the time of publication, the MLB season would be at the beginning of week three of games. However, a global pandemic has put the season on halt. 

League officials are desperately looking for ways to keep the future schedule at as many games as possible. For obvious reasons, more games equal more money all across the board. This means that all parties involved are looking to condense the season.

History reveals a number of attempts to condense a season. In a lockout-shortened 2011 NBA season, teams played 16 fewer games. To even get to that number of games, back-to-back days were increased, as well as more 3-games-in-4-days stints.

However, a few alternatives come to mind.

Plans in Place

Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Justin Turner has proposed a way to get rid of extra innings after games. If a game is tied after 9 innings, the teams should play one extra inning. If after that inning the game remains tied, instill some sort of home run derby for players, Turner pleads. This would keep fans entertained as well as promote the safety of players – pitchers specifically.

It is important for the league to keep in mind the goals for restructuring the schedule. The three most important goals, as I see them, are player safety, fan enjoyment, and ticket sales. Turner’s suggestion successfully checks all three boxes. 

This change would increase enjoyment – all fans love a competitive home run derby – and would decrease the number of innings played by team. As many as 11 percent of games every season go into extra innings. If the way tie games end were to be adjusted, each team would slash the number of innings they would be subject to play.

A Bold Proposal

Turner’s suggestion carries great weight. I would like to bring a further proposal to the league office – reduce the innings in each game, down to 7 per game, and get rid of extra innings in favor of a home run derby.

This is a very bold suggestion. The league has dealt in nine innings since its inception. It may not go over well at first glance. However, I propose that reducing the 2020 season down to seven innings per game would be the best strategy for the MLB.

If the league drops down to seven innings per game, each team could still play 162 regular-season games. However, the total number of innings would save a minimum of 324 innings played per team. That is before any extra innings, as well. This means that each team, while their schedule would show 162 games, would play the equivalent innings of 126 regular-season games, not including any extra innings.

The value of this would be immense. Pitchers would have far fewer innings on their arms, and players would have to deal with less strain on their bodies.

Furthermore, any game that ends in a tie would thus go into a home run derby. In this derby, each team would get five batters with three outs each. The team with the most home runs wins. The catch of this derby is that the pitcher must be a coach. Players can keep their arms fresh for longer, and coaches can practice throwing a derby pitch just as their players would like it.

Resistance May Respond

It would be easy for a naysayer to insist that this would become too much of an anomaly season if the number of innings changed. However, that is untrue. This season will already have an asterisk tied to it and will go down in history as different. However, all statistics are entered as
“Per 9 innings.” This means that the length of a game will not affect things like pitcher’s career ERA, or OBP.

Others may counter that fans will be less inclined to pay for a ticket to a game with only seven innings. However, this is untrue. Having seven innings means that the best players will be on the mound or in the game for a larger percentage of each game. Moreover, the games would be more competitive. Finally, the games would be shorter. This might actually increase baseball game attendance. In 2019, the average MLB baseball game was over 3 hours. If fans had to commit to a little more than two hours for a game, it may increase attendance. Fans control the ticket market, so prices may drop anyways. 

The best option for the MLB is to cut down the number of innings in each game to seven, and to eliminate extra innings. The league should replace extra innings with a home run derby at the end of each game.