Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has made it no secret that reducing game times is one of his biggest goals. He’s even managed to make some strides in that area. Since Manfred took over, clocks have reduced between-innings breaks, batters are encouraged to stay in the batter’s box and pitch clocks have been implemented in the minors.
While some of those solutions have been viewed as radical, particularly considering his predecessor Bud Selig would have never considered them, Manfred could benefit from taking things even farther.
Yes, we’re talking about implementing an emergency home run derby in order to prevent extra innings. “That’s crazy,” you might say. “No baseball league would ever do it,” you might add. That’s where you’re wrong.
The Futures Collegiate Baseball League is going to do just that this season. Here’s how it’s going to work: Any game still tied after the 10th inning will be decided by a home run derby. That’s it. Simple as that.
You may not have heard of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League, but that’s OK. The organization is not affiliated with MLB. It is a short-season, wooden bat league in the New England area comprised of nine teams.
Commissioner of the league, Christopher Hall, said there are two main reasons for the rule change: Exciting fans and keeping pitchers healthy.
Both reasons make sense. What’s better than seeing a game-deciding home run derby if you’re a fan? While we grant that the do-or-die nature of extra innings baseball can be just as dramatic, watching a team’s last bullpen pitcher throw to another team’s 25th man in the 15th inning can get tiring.
There’s also no harm in keeping pitchers from overextending themselves. You don’t want to see players injuring themselves in these games because their managers had no choice. That’s something we already see in the majors, where the stakes are much higher.
While the idea seems interesting, don’t count on it coming anywhere near MLB soon. Manfred has shown a willingness to embrace forward-thinking ideas, but a tie-breaking home run derby seems a bit extreme for him.
Still, we’re glad one league is trying it out. It may not wind up being a revolutionary advancement that propels the game forward, but it should be really fun to watch. That reasoning might not fly in MLB, but it’s perfect for the Futures League.
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