I don't want to frighten anyone. So if you prefer, you can just stop reading right now. Or you can accept the following as a semi-prediction of something that's going to happen in another, less-interesting alternate universe...
I'm afraid that ultra-long games, the marathons that last into the wee hours of the morning, will someday be outlawed.
Yes, I know. Impossible. Major League Baseball will never place a time limit on the game! After all, isn't that one of the things that makes the game so great? That, unlike every other team sport, there's no clock?
Yes, it is one of the things that makes baseball great. Well, Major League Baseball anyway. Other levels of baseball set limits, and somehow they endure. For that matter, even the American League used to have a curfew -- you couldn't start an inning after 1 in the morning -- but for some reason that went away some years ago. Today, it seems they will just keep playing until someone wins the damned thing.
Monday night, the Mets and the Marlins played for 15 innings. But that was just a warmup, as later the Angels and Athletics played for 19 innings. Both games ended dramatically. In Miami, the Marlins won with two in the bottom of the 15th; in Oakland, the A's won with two in the bottom of the 19th.
None of this came without a price, though. The Marlins lost Giancarlo Stanton in the 10th inning with a hamstring injury, and he's expected to miss a month or so. The 19-inning game proved even more perilous. The Angels' Peter Bourjos and the A's Coco Crisp both went down with hamstring injuries. Chris Young suffered a quadriceps injury, and Brett Anderson -- who was too injured to start the game, but wound up pitching in relief -- suffered a foot injury.
Bourjos, Crisp, and Anderson have all been placed on the Disabled List.
Maybe all of these players were destined for the D.L. eventually. I can't sit here and tell you that players are more likely to get hurt as the game pushes on past midnight. But would you be surprised to find that it's true? As a group, baseball players are incredibly well-conditioned, but they're not really programmed to essentially play two straight games without a break in between. They're also not used to playing well -- and staying healthy -- at 1 in the morning.
All of which makes me wonder if Our Next Commissioner might do something; say, any game not concluded after 14 innings is suspended, just like a suspension because of weather, unless (for example) it's the last game of a series, or the last game of a series between teams that won't meet again this season. I mean, you can play around with the rule. But it would preclude what happened in Oakland the other night.
Is this really a good idea? There are a lot of reasons why "some people" might want to outlaw (or severely curtail) marathon games.
1. They wipe out bullpens.
2. They might lead to more injuries (data please!).
3. Few fans are still around at the end.
4. Players are zombies the next day.
5. They inconvenience everybody who works at the ballpark.
I'm sure we could think of more. Here are the reasons to leave marathons alone:
1. They're traditional.
2. They're cool.
Just me, personally? Those three reasons trump everything else. But if the owners and the players don't appreciate them as much as you and I appreciate them, eventually they're going away. And we'll miss them, just like we miss good views from the upper deck, woolen uniforms, and screwballs.