Game on…with Rob Kriete – SEPTEMBER 2

The “scratch-off grab-bag” has been an annual, quasi-weird tradition around the holidays for my family and friends. It entails having a bag of random lottery scratch-off tickets that everyone would pull one from and, well, scratch to see if they were a winner.

The bag contained all kinds of scratch-off tickets of various games and monetary values. Of course, hearing someone shout, “Winner,” would always be fun, even if that meant “winning” another scratch-off. After everyone had scratched to win, we share the moment where we ask each other to double-check the non-winners. Since virtually every ticket was a different type of game, with varying rules of winning, we always wanted another set of eyes on losing tickets to confirm the results.

This truncated, quasi-weird, MLB season also includes different ways of winning. Beyond the universal designated-hitter, extra players on active rosters, and even starting extra-innings with the player that made the last out the previous inning on second, MLB has instituted seven-inning games for all doubleheaders. I fancy myself a baseball traditionalist but can understand and even appreciate some of these rule changes, especially in a short, 60-game season. I’m not sold on keeping the designated hitter in the National League after this season, but can admit that it has not impeded my enjoyment of the games at all. Starting extra-innings with a runner in scoring position will not be an acceptable way of deciding a winner in 2021 and beyond, but in 2020, I can see its value.  (This rule is MLB’s version of the NHL shootout).

However, a seven-inning game, for the sake of playing another seven-inning game, is downright unacceptable. Up until 2020, all seven-innings games were decidedly seven-inning games because of weather, not to get done quicker. The pandemic does necessitate less interaction between players, and shorter games do somewhat help. However, in season chock-full of doubleheaders, I see these designed, shortened games to chip away at the integrity of the game I love. Already this season, I have seen my beloved Mets sweep and get swept in the 2020 version of a doubleheader. It is not the results of these games that bother me; it is how they are being played. With bullpens becoming more integral to teams, these doubleheaders are a veritable “bullpen day” for teams involved.

Additionally, teams get an additional player for these games, which is almost always a reliever. By turning doubleheaders into primarily bullpen games, I feel MLB is changing the rules a bit too much. Sixty-feet, six-inches; Ninety feet; three outs; four balls…and nine innings are necessary for this baseball traditionalist. Now, please take a look at this scratch-off ticket. I think I’m a winner. Could you please check? I’m unsure of the rules on this ticket. Be safe, everyone.