Thursday night the New York Yankees lost to the Indians 19-5. Mike Ford, a first baseman/designated hitter, pitched the final two innings for the Yankees.
While I was driving into work Friday afternoon, one idea was still stuck in my head: Why did they have to play the last two innings anyway?
The Yankees had clearly stopped trying to win the game, choosing instead to fight another day. They announced that to the other team, the fans and the world when Ford took the mound to start the eighth inning. Granted, Ford had pitched at Princeton and was pretty good at it there (15-8, 2.83 ERA in 29 games -- 28 of them starts).
But it had been six years since any of that happened. Ford’s only job was to run out the clock, and somehow get six outs without too much harm. He gave up six hits and five runs in the eighth inning, including two home runs. Then he somehow retired his last five in a row with 60-something-mile-per-hour missiles.
This was no longer a Major League Baseball game. The Yankees had thrown in the towel.
So, the question in my head Friday afternoon was, why weren’t they simply allowed to do so?
Rule 7.03 from the Official Major League Baseball Rule Book addresses forfeited games and states that a forfeit can be called when a team “refuses to continue to play during a game unless the game has been suspended” or when “a team is unable or refuses to place players on the field.”
One night after the team got its butt kicked, Yankees manager Aaron Boone was asked about this.
Boone didn’t go all in on the idea of telling the home plate umpire it was time to quit. But a “mercy rule” of some kind legislated into the game, well that’s another story.
“I think there would be a lot of benefit to that,” Boone said.
“I think you’d probably eliminate a lot of the unwritten rules of people running or swinging at 3-0 pitches in the quote-unquote wrong scores and just be like, ‘Hey if you get to this point after seven innings or whatever’ there might be something to that, some merit to that and worth exploring,” Boone admitted.
“Because it’s not fun to have to put in a position player in that kind of situation, even though I think for Ford and some of the guys it’s fun,” Boone added. “Guys can have some fun with that, but, you know, sitting in my chair, you worry about hurting someone. You hate throwing up the flag like that, and sitting there getting kicked in the mouth is no fun. So, I’m sure there’s something to that question.”
Remember, Boone used Austin Romine, a catcher, for the ninth inning of a playoff game, a 16-1 loss to the Red Sox in Game 3 of last year’s division series.
“There’s probably a regular season component that would probably make some sense,” Boone said. “Especially nowadays where pitcher usage is watched and monitored and protected as much as it is.”
Even the winning team in a blowout is having a pitcher use up bullets in a game where the outcome is no longer being contested.
“So, there’s some incentive to get to a certain point,” Boone said of being on the good side of a laugher.
Perhaps it can be a sliding scale, where you have a 10-run rule after seven innings or eight runs after eight innings. Maybe teams will gripe a bit -- and purists and historians maybe a bit more -- but the alternative is putting on a charade disguised as a competitive baseball game.
And now you see it almost every week somewhere, don’t you? That’s as sure a sign as any that something needs to be done. Or should we wait until some utility player blows out his elbow trying to throw a slider past a legit major league hitter?
So, let’s go. Starting in 2020, we need a Murti rule.
Whoops. I mean, mercy rule, of course. ;)
Follow Sweeny on Twitter at @YankeesWFAN.
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