Appreciating Extra Innings

I was in Vancouver last weekend following along with the hockey games and got to raging against the overtime method used in the final game. I can understand limiting overtimes during the run up to the medal games as there are a lot of games to play in a short amount of time but for the medal games I firmly believe it should stay 5-on-5 and go until somebody scores.

My discussion on the matter lead me back to thinking about NFL’s overtime rules, which seem to be under review, and then to Tango’s two prompts about possible rule changes in baseball and it clicked how much I enjoy baseball’s overtime rules compared to every other sports.

To me, baseball gets it perfect. I want overtimes to not fundamentally change the sport and I want them to present equitable opportunities for both teams. The NFL fails drastically on the latter aspect and college football on the former. I think shootouts and penalty kicks and other gimmicks are dumb, but tolerable if you really cannot stomach the idea of a tie and they are contained to the regular season only.

When it comes to the playoffs though, you need to let the players play the sport they’re being paid for. Does anyone enjoy the World Cup being decided on penalty kicks? The US-Canada gold medal game was thrilling but the chance of a shootout deciding it was a possible wet blanket hovering over the enthralling overtime period.

I know some people toy around with the idea of modifying the innings once extras are reached. I understand the thoughts behind starting each inning with a man on second for example, but I am perfectly content with extra innings as they are now. It makes games longer, sure, but that extra tension is part of the fun for me.

I am by no means a traditionalist and generally welcome discussion on any subject that might conceivably make a sport more enjoyable, but it’s a subjective measure of enjoyment and personally there’s no way to top what we have now. Kudos, baseball, for getting that one right.

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.