Somehow, the Frontier League watched the ending to the National Football League’s playoff game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills and the subsequent outcry about their bad overtime rules and decided to adopt something similar for themselves.
On Monday afternoon, the Frontier League, an independent baseball league that features 16 teams, three of whom are Canadian, announced that starting in 2022, games that go to extra innings will be decided in a sudden-death fashion. Here’s how it will work.
After the 10th inning is played using MLB’s extra-innings rules, the home team will have the choice to play offence or defence for the one additional half-inning of baseball. The team that plays offence will have a runner start on first base and three outs to work with. If they score a run, the game is over and they win. If three outs are recorded, the team on defence wins the game. This rule will kick into place when the game reaches the 11th inning tied in a regular game of the eighth inning if it’s a doubleheader.
“While sudden death will not happen every game, we believe when it does it will have the fans on their feet,” commented Kevin Winn, Deputy Commissioner for On-Field Operations. “Created by a former manager, this initiative received overwhelming support of our current field managers and Rules Committee.”
“Short of playing traditional extra innings, the sudden death tiebreaker is the best option for determining the outcome of a game,” stated Andy McCauley, the Frontier League’s winningest active manager and 2021 Manager of the Year. “With regard to game time, injury prevention, and a baseball strategic outcome I feel the new sudden death rule could be an innovative solution.”
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McCauley was a part of a group that was charged with refining the sudden death format along with Quebec’s Pat Scalabrini and Ottawa’s Bobby Brown. Minor league baseball is known for testing the boundaries of what the game can do. This isn’t the first time something radical has been brought to the forefront this way. They have a history of wacky ideas including robot umpires and starting a runner on second base in extra innings, but this move tops that list for the craziest, and likely worst received, change to the fundamentals of the game.
McCauley said it best when he said “Short of playing traditional extra innings, the sudden death tiebreaker is the best option for determining the outcome of a game.” Nothing is better than the traditional extra innings format baseball has used forever.
In the case of the Frontier League, there is likely interest in ending games quickly and moving on to the next game, especially if there is any travel involved between games. The luxuries that MLB players enjoy simply don’t exist in this league. This odd format is going to spark debate and it’s unlikely that it will ever catch on, but it could still be worth trying for the Frontier League.
If fans thought having a runner start on second base in extra innings was radical, there’s no telling how extreme reactions could be about this one.