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Pros play to the end: Getting tough on ties

June 17,2008
The time displayed at the top of the scoreboard isn’t due to technical malfunctioning: the Woori Heroes defeated the Kia Tigers 2-1 in 14 innings last Thursday, in a game that ended at 12:49 a.m. Provided by the Tigers
Last week, the Inside put its two cents in on the pace of the game in the Korea Baseball Organization. Another length-related issue popped up last week in the league, so let’s jump on it.

Last Thursday, the Woori Heroes edged out the Kia Tigers 2-1 in the bottom of the 14th inning. The game began at 6:32 p.m. and ended at 12:49 a.m.

With a 55-minute rain delay in between, the official elapsed time was five hours and 22 minutes. It was the first KBO game ever to end after midnight and the longest game of this season by nine minutes. There were close to 7,000 fans on hand at the beginning of the game at Mokdong Stadium in western Seoul but fewer than 1,000 stayed on until Kang Jung-ho’s walk-off single in the 14th.

Starting this season, the KBO abolished the tying rule, whereby a tie would be called after 12 innings in the regular season and 15 innings in playoffs. Ties will still be allowed, however, if a tie game is rained out after five innings or if teams are tied after nine innings of the first game of a double header.

All along, the Inside has been all for the no-tie rule. Perhaps it’s a personal thing but a baseball game that ends in a tie just doesn’t make sense. The “T” column for ties in the standings never looks right. Every other major sport, except for regular season K-League football, plays until the winner is determined, so why shouldn’t baseball?

Before the season, some managers were concerned that there would be night games that extend to the wee hours of the morning before day games in another city. Their logic went that fatigue from the game combined with the trip would increase the risk of injuries.

But over the course of a season, not many games will actually last as long as the Woori-Kia game, or at least not enough to warrant much concern. So far in 2008, with teams having played about half of their 126-game season, there have been only two games that ended after 13 innings or later.

The Woori-Kia match will likely be an aberration but it was long enough to give the camp opposing the no-tie rule some ammunition. After using eight pitchers in the marathon win, the Heroes had to travel from Seoul to Busan for a three-game set there. They promptly lost three in a row from Friday to Sunday. They left Seoul at 2 a.m. Friday morning and arrived in Busan at 6 a.m.

The Inside understands where the complaints are coming from. Yes, exhausted players may not play great games for fans. Yes, fatigue could lead to injuries. And yes, most players in the local minor leagues simply aren’t ready to step up and fill in for injured players.

But on the flip side, knowing somebody has to win, teams are more likely to play harder rather than trying to settle for a tie.

For every manager who is worried about player fatigue, you will find players who are willing to go the distance to determine the winner.

Lotte Giants ace Son Min-han said, “I don’t think any fan would come to the ballpark to see a tie game.”

Heroes veteran outfielder Song Ji-man thinks, “Real pros must play to the end. And professional athletes are fit enough to do that.”

Former major leaguer John Kruk once said, “I am not an athlete. I am a professional ball player.”

Well, this would be the perfect chance for baseball players here to prove to naysayers that they, too, are athletes who can endure a five-hour game.

Traveling is a legitimate concern, especially in the case of a day game following a long night game, because teams here ride buses rather than fly.

But unpredictability is what makes baseball fascinating. The no-tie rule should have been in place from the beginning.


By Yoo Jee-ho Staff Reporter [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]



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