When Scooter Gennett took Edwin Diaz deep in the bottom of the ninth inning of Tuesday’s All-Star game, NL Manager (and looter of the greatest base in major league history) Dave Roberts was ecstatic in the dugout. For a moment.
But the NL skipper, as well as AL counterpart A.J. Hinch, was suddenly also worried how he might manage the rest of a game that had no end point guaranteed. Fortunately for the gents, a couple of Hinch’s regulars and one of Roberts’ pitchers, made that a moot concern.
We, of course, have seen this before. In 2002, the All-Star game was declared a tie when the teams ran out of pitchers at the end of the 11th inning. Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, formerly considered a boil on baseball’s anus but today revered as the guy who isn’t Manfred, responded to the fiasco by giving us This Time it Counts, tying hosting duties for the World Series on the outcome of the game. That condition held until 2017, when the league did away with TTiC in favor of best record, a solution with its own problems that we won’t get into here.
The problem with Bud’s solution is that it didn’t do anything to actually solve the problem. Sure, managers are more cognizant about holding back a hurler or two for the possibility of extra frames, but since neither manager wants to overwork a guy who might be key to a pennant race (and play for some other team), the possibility of Total Hurler Depletion remains.
That’s where I come in. There’s a better solution to this issue, one that would not just be workable, but fun.
Each league should designate one minor league pitcher to serve as its final arm in the pen. If a league skipper exhausts all of his supply of hurlers, the ball gets handed to the minor league tosser and he’s got to pitch until we’ve got a final score.
Now, teams aren’t going to want to use some top prospect in the role. Instead, the distinction should go to some ML lifer, the Crash Davis type if you switched his place in the battery with Nuke. Let the Triple A fans vote from a slate of willing candidates to enhance the experience.
The upshot: The leagues don’t have to worry about a tie. A career minor leaguer gets a chance to rub shoulders with the game’s all-stars and cashes a nice paycheck just for making the squad (plus a larger one if he’s called upon to pitch); and, quite possibly, we get to watch a no-name pitcher set down a bunch of the league’s second-best players (the best having already departed the premises) for several innings.