The Commish Speaks: Game Length
Sunday, June 16, 2009
There seems to be a clear lack of understanding regarding several RJSL rules. This can lead to frustration and even argument. One of the core tenets of the RJSL is to minimize the possibility for machlokes. We realize that many of the players in our great league are passionate about baseball and that they want to play the game to its fullest potential. This passion can periodically lead one to overstep the normal boundaries of the fundamental laws governing behavior between individuals as well as chilul hashem. Several of the rules utilized by the RJSL are designed to minimize what we see as stumbling blocks. These lessons have been learned over the last six seasons and work well when there is a common understanding. Please note that I do not say agreement, as I am certain that there are individuals who do not agree with some of the rules. That is fine, as long as these individuals understand the source of the rules and adhere to them.
The first rule that I would like to tackle here is the seven inning vs. nine inning game and the 10 minute rule. The RJSL rules state that if a game begins on time, then it will be a nine inning game. If the game starts late, then it will be a seven inning game. Additionally, no new inning can begin within the last ten minutes of the allotted time for the game. There are several reasons, ranging from the fundamental, philosophical and prophylactic for these rules. We have observed that a reasonably well played nine inning game can typically be played, with little difficulty, within the allotted 2 hour time period. The ten minute rule will come into play for a game that drags on. However, with the talent level in this league, the enactment of the ten minute rule is an unusual occurrence.
This begs the question of the source of the ten minute rule. There are several: Firstly, for night games, the park shuts the lights at 10:00 PM. The Park Staff will usually let us play a little past 10:00 p.m. to complete an inning but thatís about it. When we have back to back games, it is not appropriate for the early game to delay the late game so a 10 minute rule is invoked. Finally, even for a day game with no game following, players have other commitments such as car pool, family obligations, etc. and a two hour block of time is sufficient to have a fun, competitive game.
The reality is that this ten minute rule can be negatively exercised, particularly when teams start accusing one another of stall tactics, players intentionally get out on purpose as a strategic move, etc. All of these actions are awful, both in terms of behavior and the spirit of the game. I have personally witnessed these occurrences since the league's inception and they have fortunately decreased significantly over time as we placed these rules into effect. I have been personally accused time and again (even this year) for manipulating game length to favor my team. I think everyone understands how ludicrous this is, but, there are passionate, competitive individuals in our league who lose track of reality in game situations. Please understand that the 10 minute rule is invoked only as a last resort since the seven/nine inning rule will insure that a complete game will be played within the time constraints.
There are those who claim that they pay for nine innings and demand the right to play nine innings. Or, there are those players who complain that they left work early and yet, cannot begin the game on time because the other team came late. You are entitled to play within the parameters of the RJSL rules and the rules of the Parks Department and that is all. The nine inning game is a privilege for starting on time. The seven inning game (which, by the way, most leagues utilize) reflects the reality that people have busy schedules and softball may not be the most important activity in their lives. Therefore, they will come late, be more laid back and even (rachmana litzlan) make errors, leading to sloppy looooonnnnggggg games. The allotted time is sufficient for seven innings, even for this scenario. When all else fails, the 10 minute rule (no new inning may begin within 10 minutes of the end of the allotted 2 hours) rectifies matters. If the seven vs. nine inning rule is used, then the 10 minute rule is almost never required. The one exception is when neither team has nine players by fifteen minutes after the announced start time, or one team does not have nine players when it is their turn to play the field. Both of these scenarios will result in a forfeit and the league goes to great lengths (another blog) to make certain this never happens.
As with most things, the key is communication. Captains must talk to each other and to the umpire so everyone is on the same page. The few issues that have come up this season are due to captains not communicating. These matters should be addressed prior to the first pitch and subsequently communicated to the team who should accept it with open hearts.
Finally, all playoff games are seven innings. These games are usually even more competitive and require more safeguards and streamlining.
Commish Speaks: Rainouts