Chairman of the WBSC, Riccardo Fraccari, has announced that international baseball games will last seven innings instead of nine after the Olympic Games. This is bad news for baseball.
Baseball will be an Olympic sport during the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. But with the 2024 Olympics in Paris, baseball will be not on the Olympic Agenda. In an attempt to please the IOC, Fraccari has decided to shorten baseball games by two innings. Not only will this shorten the games by about an hour but this will also mean that fewer players are needed, something the IOC desperately wants.
Seven inning baseball games will nullify the difference in strength between teams. A good example is today’s game at the U23 European Championship between Great Britain and the Netherlands. Don’t get me wrong, Paul Kirkpatrick was lights out. He was practically unhittable for the Dutch lineup. And besides that, the Dutch committed three errors, so this British victory of today is deserved. But… Kirkpatrick had thrown 103 pitches already when he recorded the final out for a seven-inning complete game so the chance of him being replaced in the eighth of a normal nine-inning baseball game was rather big. And in the remaining two innings, the Dutch could have straightened the ship.
With seven-inning games, relief pitchers will become less important, as was shown today by Paul Kirkpatrick. Also, the strategy of the game will change. A starting pitcher can be used for fewer innings, so he can pitch on a shorter rest. Errors, as was shown today, will weigh more. On the other hand, if a starting pitcher is dominating, it is easier to let him pitch seven frames than nine. All things that influence the game in a negative way.
When Fraccari made the announcement earlier this year, many spoke of mutilation of the sport. The problem is that with this measure alone, baseball will not become an Olympic sport. The IOC wants the best players, read MLB players. And MLB owners will never allow their players to join the Olympics for two weeks. Therefore there is too much money involved in the Bigs.
Slowly I start to wonder if Fraccari really gives a shit about the game of baseball. Seven inning baseball games will hurt the game more than it will help. If you want to watch seven-inning games, just go watch softball. It is about time Fraccari will be replaced by someone who really cares about the game rather than courting the IOC.