When it comes to sports, from a spectator’s view, I guess I’m a bit of a purist. I have never appreciated the Designated Hitter rule in baseball. Nor have I, as many, perhaps most, fans have, embraced the NHL system of breaking ties.
The concept of altering the game drastically, by having only three players and a goaltender on the ice for five minutes may well be fun as an exhibition. But as a means of deciding a game, it seems to reduce the importance of the match to that of a pick-up game. And God forbid a shoot-out should be used to determine the outcome.
Baseball has always got it right: decide the game by playing the game.
Until recently that is. The major North American sports leagues – MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL – are trying their best to salvage some sort of COVID-19 affected season. It’s big money after all. Baseball is looking at a sixty game season. Details are still sketchy, but it appears a number of things will look different due to the fear of COVID-19. For instance, there will be no arguing tolerated. No in-your-face manager/umpire sessions. Very sensible.
They are also considering trying out a new twist that will shorten the games. Evidently, even sports-starved fans don’t want the games to be as long. So, a game that ends in a tie after the regulation nine innings will go to extra innings. But when the first batter in the top of the tenth inning comes to the plate, there will already be a runner on second base, in scoring position. Should that runner come around to score, the pitcher will not be charged with an earned run.
The League claims that with a condensed schedule, long games will be even more problematic. Hooey I say!
Games played at the zenith, the major leagues should be decided by playing the game, not some bastardized version thereof. No players on second to start an inning (what next? When we were kids and it was getting dark we would hasten the game by playing first-third and home). Hopefully, things won’t deteriorate to that level.
But it’s not just baseball and hockey, the NFL also uses a strange recipe to break ties. Frankly, other than in playoff games I really don’t see the need to break ties. They worked just fine for decades in the NHL. It’s interesting that during the playoffs, like the old Smith-Barney ads, the NHL decides ties the old fashioned way, they play the game as it is meant to be played.