(In 2020, baseball fans experienced a lot of things they were heretofore unaccustomed too. In this series, I’ll be looking back at some of the changes that pandemic baseball necessitated, giving my thoughts on them, and then asking for your opinion.)
Part 3: Seven-inning games.
Some aspects of Major League Baseball have become sacred over its long history. Four balls to a walk—three strikes and ‘yer out—90 feet to each sack—and nine innings per game (barring inclement weather). That is, of course, until 2020, in which seven-inning contests were used to help precipitate the number of doubleheaders necessary to make it through a COVID-19 ravaged season.
On one hand, 7 frames instead of 9 is sacrilegious towards baseball’s past. It just seems inherently wrong. The 5th-inning stretch doesn’t have the same ring to it. Imagine playing three quarters of football, ending a bowling bout in the 8th frame, or concluding a chess match right before the endgame (I may or may not have just finished The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix).
On the other hand, doubleheaders are revered aspects of baseball tradition in and of themselves. “Let’s play two!”, as the great Ernie Banks was known to say:
No other major sporting league even considers having its athletes play two contests in a 6-12 hour period. There’s something about spending a whole day at the ballpark that appeals to hopeless baseball romantics. Sadly, the doubleheader has largely gone the way of the VHS tape or floppy disk as of late—never scheduled and only used in an absolute pinch.
As such, an interesting scenario has potentially arisen within MLB: the addition of more doubleheaders to the yearly schedule at the cost of a baseball game’s treasured length. Personally, I’m extremely torn on this topic. My love for doubleheaders in general clashes with my adamance that baseball is a 9-inning affair.
A final musing I can’t seem to shake, however: despite my passion for 18 innings of baseball in a compressed time window, it almost never fails that I feel exhausted after such affairs. Not necessarily the “good kind” of exhausted, either. Sitting through six hours of baseball—no matter how enjoyable—with nary a break is not something the physical body is necessarily made for. In that sense, two 7-spots almost seem desirable.
Another interesting and complicated topic that sprang forth in 2020, to be sure. What are your thoughts...
What would you do with 7-inning games and doubleheaders?
This poll is closed
Nothing—go back to 9-inning games and only as-necessary doubleheaders
Build more doubleheaders into the schedule, but make those double-duty days 7 innings each
Build in more doubleheaders, but keep the games 9 innings each
Make every game (doubleheader or not) 7 innings in length