Manager Aaron Boone’s reaction to the emergency situation wasn’t so enthusiastic. He told reporters he was worried about the move leading to injury. A day later, he responded to a question about an alternate solution: the mercy rule.
“I think there would be a lot of benefit to that,” Boone said Friday. “You would probably eliminate a lot of the unwritten rules of people running or swinging at 3-0 pitches in the ‘wrong scores.’ Just be like, if you get to this point after seven innings or whatever, there might be some merit to that worth exploring.”
The mercy rule exists in amateur baseball and softball competitions, such as Little League, high school and the NCAA, though its application varies. It is in effect for the Little League World Series if a team leads by 10 or more runs through the fourth inning — or if it leads by 15 or more through three innings.
Full-length Little League games are only six innings, but there is precedent for a model that translates to Major League Baseball’s nine-inning games.
A similar 10- and 15-run mercy rule used in Little League applies during the World Baseball Classic, an international competition with standard nine-inning games. The rule is implemented when a team is ahead by 10 or more runs after the seventh inning or if a team leads by 15 or more after the fifth.
Given MLB’s history of teams playing all nine innings to completion, it seems unlikely the league will adopt a mercy rule anytime soon. However, there have been plenty of games that could have used a little shortening this season as one team took a beating that rendered the final innings moot. On Aug. 10, the Orioles lost, 23-2, to the Astros and used outfielder Stevie Wilkerson on the mound for the fourth time this year.
Fortunately for Boone, his first-place Yankees have more often been on the winning end of blowouts this season.