The Blue Jays have been on the receiving end of two beatings over the last week, so much so that this old-school fan is questioning if baseball needs a mercy rule.
One of my favourite parts about baseball is the history and traditions around the sport. It’s a classic game, and the nuts and bolts haven’t changed much for the earliest days.
As an old-school type of baseball fan, I’m usually among the curmudgeons that don’t want to see change. For example, I loathe the rule that starts a baserunner on second for extra innings this year, the seven-inning games for double-headers, and I’d even prefer to see the National League go back to having their pitchers hit in 2021. I understand if you disagree, but that’s just the way I feel about a lot the rules that have been in place for decades. That said, the way things have gone for the Blue Jays over the last week, I might be convinced that baseball needs a mercy rule.
After losing 18-1 to the Mets on Friday, they managed to bounce back and win the next two games of the series. Things were looking up heading into a three-game set in New York with the Yankees, but unfortunately they opened this series in even worse fashion, losing 20-6.
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In both games, the score was out of hand in the early going, and playing nine innings was merely a formality. The Blue Jays have been known to make some pretty big comebacks this year, but these are the kind of games where the outcome is never in doubt. And when things get that bad, you have to ask if there’s much point in continuing, especially with a schedule like they’re playing in 2020.
Even going forward though, I wouldn’t be shocked if this was an issue that was eventually discussed in CBA negotiations. I’m not talking about anything too extreme, like quitting after five innings or something, but if there is a double-digit lead after seven, surely even ticket-buying fans would feel like they’ve had there fill, no? I understand that there are TV time slots and sponsorship commitments that need to be considered as well, but it takes quite a while to get through a lopsided game like that anyway.
The argument for a mercy rule is pretty simple, and that would be around reducing injuries. The league has made plenty of efforts to this end over the years, but this is an area that could be looked at. Obviously the biggest issue is that someone has to throw those nine innings, even if you’re winning or losing a game by 17 runs. As we’ve seen the Blue Jays do in both of their major losses, they turned to a position player to pitch in Santiago Espinal. This can be fun to watch once in a while, but it’s becoming more common with MLB teams all the time and that’s not the kind of trend the league wants.
However, you can’t blame managers for putting a willing position player on the mound to save their bullpen arms, especially this year. When you consider that starting pitchers are having shorter outings than ever before as well, it makes sense that skippers want to save the ‘pen. That said, I can see that argument that playing out “garbage time”, when it’s bad enough that a shortstop is taking a turn on the mound, doesn’t make a lot of sense.
If I had a vote, I’m honestly not sure which way I would, being the old-school type and all. However, as I watch baseball innovating all the time, this might be an update that makes sense.