The dramatic change that would save baseball: 7-inning games

PHILADELPHIA — Sure, had the Yankees received six more outs with which to work early Wednesday evening, they very well might have completed their coup against Joe Girardi’s shaky Phillies bullpen.

They just had to settle for saving the sport of baseball.

Say it with me, everyone: seven-inning games!

The Yankees’ first doubleheader of seven-inning contests ended with a split. They countered an 11-7 Game 1 loss, a sleepy affair in which they scored four runs in the last inning to make it interesting, with a bullpenning, 3-1 victory in Game 2.

Most important: Game 1 lasted 2 hours and 44 minutes, even squeezing in an epic tirade by Yankees third-base coach Phil Nevin against loathed umpire Angel Hernandez, and Game 2 improved on that with a 2:38. Party like it’s 1985!

“I like them,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said, “because you can get in some of these doubleheaders and they’re two four-hour games and then if they’re split doubleheaders, it’s a day at the ballpark from 10 o’clock until midnight. And that’s not easy on players. I think it’s hard on their health as well. … So I think it’s a great idea.”

Asked if he’d be in favor of this change beyond the current season, when the players and owners signed on for it out of respect for the coronavirus, Girardi — who has served on Major League Baseball’s Competition Committee — said, “Yes, I would.”

Added Yankees outfielder Mike Tauchman, who delivered the game-winning, seventh-inning hit in the nightcap: “I’m kind of all for it. I wouldn’t be opposed to seven-inning DHs every single Sunday and every single Monday off going forward. I’m just saying.”

Let’s just say, in the form of a proposal, something even more dramatic. Make every regular-season contest, even the non-doubleheaders, seven innings long. Given all of the valid concerns about the average time of game creeping past three hours, it would positively impact the game’s marketability and appeal.

Here’s our three-phase plan to make this happen:

— Develop a vaccine for COVID-19 in time for the 2021 season to proceed normally.

— Next year, turn all doubleheaders into seven-inning jobs.

— In 2022, make all regular-season games seven innings. In a nod to the past, overtime non-doubleheader affairs can be played normally in the eighth and ninth innings before implementing the “runner on second base” incentive in the 10th. In the eighth inning of doubleheaders, the runners should sprint out to second base as a display of urgency to get going already.

The postseason can remain nine innings because the tension and suspense justify the length, and that way the networks can make their nut with two more innings’ worth of commercials.

The game has been heading this way anyway, what with openers, relievers airing it out for short stints and only the best starting pitchers going more than two times through the lineup. Why not acknowledge those truths and speed things up to the last out. All the pitchers will still get plenty of reps, as exemplified by Aaron Boone’s successful, five-pitcher voyage through Game 2.

“It goes quick,” said Luke Voit, who homered and singled in Game 2. “You’ve got to get your runs in early because you can do a lot of different moves. … I think it’s good for the players in injury prevention, too.”

Moreover, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” sounds even better in the fifth inning than it does in the seventh.

The coronavirus hardly has brought out the best in MLB, what with the financial squabbling between players and owners and owners taking way too long to refund their ticket-holding customers. It has produced some ideas worth retaining, however. There isn’t a better keeper than the seven-inning ballgame.

In “There’s Something About Mary,” Ben Stiller’s character picks up a hitchhiker who preaches, “Seven’s the key number!” That maniac was right. Wouldn’t it make far more sense to leave folks wanting for more instead of begging for less?

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