Baseball

Kansas City – Like many others here in North America, the dominant sport of my youth was baseball. As a child, I could have easily listed off the starting lineup for the Chicago Cubs, my hometown team, just as easily as I could have told you who was President at the time. Baseball dominated my summers, with the evenings often spent at CommunityAmerica Ballpark in Kansas City, Kansas, home of the Kansas City T-Bones of the independent Northern League, and later the American Association.

Today, when I look at baseball often what first come out of my mouth is a sigh. For me, the classic image of baseball is that period between the 1930s and 1960s when some of the greatest classic players took to the field. Even when the Cubs were doing well in 1998 and 2003, my mental image of the national pastime was in black and white, unlike basketball which has always been in colour.

In the intervening years since the Cubbies last nearly made it to the World Series, just under 11 years ago at the time of my writing this editorial, my views on the sport have changed slightly. For one thing, I find that baseball is a bit of an odd duck in the sporting world. To an extent, it appears to try and mimic the game-length of american football, while having very distinct roots in sports such as rounders and cricket, which take far longer to play in their traditional forms.

So, I say why not make the structure of baseball more like cricket? Looking at the structure of the game, each game lasts for 9 innings, unless there’s a tie. In that case you could be there all night. The longest baseball game that I’ve sat through went to the 21st inning, ending at 2.00 am, with the T-Bones losing at the end to Fargo.

Each game is a part of a series, in large part a holdover from past decades when intercity travel in North America was quite a challenge. Each series traditionally lasts for 3 games. So, why not slightly change the way that scores are measured? Instead of going per-game, why not go per-series?

For example, say the Cubs play the Nationals over 4th of July weekend in Washington. The series begins on the afternoon of Friday, 4 July, a game the Cubs win 7-2 over the Nationals. Game 2 is on the evening of Saturday, 5 July, a game which the Nationals win 13-0. Game 3, the final game of the series, takes place at noon on Sunday, 6 July. Game 3 is won by the Nationals with a score of 2-1. Therefore, under my proposed system, the Nationals would win the series 2-1, with the runs standing at 16-8. So, the score would be shown as follows: WSH 2/17 – 1/8 CHC.

The runs would only matter in regards of who wins the series if at the end of 9 innings in Game 3 both teams are tied. So, let’s say that with the Nationals vs Cubs example, at the end of the 9th inning in Game 3 the teams are tied at 1-1. The umpires would then go to the total number of runs from the series, which in this revised scenario would be:

G1: CHC 1/7 – 0/2 WSH

G2: CHC 1/0 – 1/13 WSH

G3: CHC 1/1 – 1/1 WSH =

CHC 1/8 – WSH 2/15.

The Nationals would win the series because they scored more runs over the course of the series. You will notice that in this tie-breaker scenario, Game 3 is not counted under the games won side of the score (Games won / Runs.) This is because neither team technically won Game 3, leaving it uncounted in the overall score.

What would this do for the overall flow of the game? For one thing, it would allow for end-of-series games to end quicker, allowing for the teams to be on the road faster if needs be, while also ensuring for fans with children that their Sunday afternoon baseball wouldn’t keep their sons or daughters out too late on a school night. At the same time, it would give more meaning to the series, which I feel has lost quite a bit of meaning over the years. It could also give more impetus to batters to work on scoring more runs earlier in the series, as that would better insure their team from losing on runs at the series’ end.

On top of that, this system could simplify league standings, eliminating the need for having teams be 1/2 a game back from another team. In this model, the teams’ standings would be shown based upon their overall series performance. Ties on the series record side would be resolved with the number of runs scored. If we use the current Cubs record using the official rules of baseball, they stand as follows:

Team     W     L     PCT     L10     STRK

CHC     38    48   .442       6-4       L2

Now, if we use the same system for this series-based record, the Cubs record stands as:

Team     W     L     PCT     L10     STRK

CHC     12    16   .430       5-5       L1

You will notice that I do not include the “games behind” category in the above charts. If this series method were to be implemented it would include a “series behind” category. I simply did not have time to translate the seasons of all of the teams in the National League Central from the current game based system to my series based system.

In general, this series based system is more of a mild Monday afternoon brain teaser, and what I’d call an interesting exercise to consider. Whether any of the world’s baseball leagues will ever implement such a system is yet to be determined, however I will say that it would add another layer of excitement to the national pastime.

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