Despite being the “Midsummer Classic” and featuring the best players in the game, baseball’s All-Star Game has been rather dull of late. In addition to the “very little action happens” that the game as a whole is suffering, the game itself is structured so that the superstar players – the ones baseball wants to showcase – leave the game after a few innings and aren’t around in the later innings when the game is on the line. They’re both fine players, but who really wants to see Josh Hader face Ty France (for example) when the game is tied in the 8th inning?
Needless to say, I’ve got an idea.
Let’s go back into deep history and resurrect something like “All-Out Town Ball”.
For seven innings, the normal game will be played. But in the eighth inning, everything changes.
The teams get to use the full roster of all players still in the game. The team that is behind gets to bat first (if tied, it’s the visiting team).
In their team’s half of the inning, every player gets one plate appearance. There is no limit to the number of outs. The team in the field can replace players on defense or pitching without jeopardizing their spot in the “lineup” the next half-inning, but each pitcher must face at least three batters – and no defensive changes can be made except during a pitching change (save for the case of injury).
If a team is ahead at the end of the Town Ball inning, they win. If the score is tied, the game is declared a tie.
To me, this has some advantages.
First, it will encourage players to stay in the game longer. The more players you have still in the game for the “Town Ball” inning, the more runs you can score, right?
Every player (outside of pitchers) will get to have at least one plate appearance. None of this crap where the player just gets into the game for defense in the late innings, and never gets a chance to affect the outcome of the game.
In this inning, striking out will be about the worst thing you can do at the plate. It’s no secret that one reason Baseball is so dull of late is that batters strike out far too often (the reasons for that are outside the scope of this essay). While in this proposal there’s no limit to the number of outs in an inning, by striking out a batter does NOTHING to help his team’s cause. Runners are not moved up, the defense is not challenged. The only thing worse would be grounding into a double play. You’d be better off trying to bunt your way on!
Speaking of bunting, could a pitcher be used in the lineup? I don’t see why not! If they make an out it won’t matter, but they might be able to bunt a runner over – or tire out the opposing pitcher. The same rules as with the other players – only those not already removed from the game – are eligible. Their availability in the lineup for the “Town Ball” inning would have to be announced after the end of the seventh inning, though.
What about commercial breaks? They’ll happen whenever there’s a pitching change. What, you don’t think any single pitcher is going to want to face ALL 15-20 batters who will be stepping up to the plate for Town Ball? There will be plenty of time for MLB to make money.
There will have to be some rules about batting order and when a pitching change can be announced, but that can be worked out. The All-Star Game is supposed to be an exhibition – a showcase of the game’s best players that’s also a fun little diversion. It doesn’t matter in the standings. So why not have fun trying something different?