Squeezing the last bit of enjoyment out of the lost half-inning of a baseball game

A colleague of mine complained, "When the home team is winning, they don't bother playing the bottom half of the ninth inning. I'm getting ripped off! Make them finish the game!"

This led to some speculation as to how the visiting team could manage to salvage a win out of that final half-inning, given that they had no further opportunity to score any runs. My proposal was that they could try to get as many players on the home team to be rendered ineligible to play (say, by injuring them or provoking fights and getting them thrown out of the game), until the home team had fewer than nine eligible players, at which point they would be forced to forfeit the game.

Mind you, employing this technique would certainly earn retaliation the next time you faced that team, so it's not a viable long-term strategy. And the league would certainly crack down on this sort of behavior.

It was merely a theoretical exercise.

I consulted with my umpire colleague, and he said that the home team could respond by simply refusing to come to bat. Rule 6.02(c) states that if the batter refuses to take his position in the batter's box, the umpire shall call a strike on the batter. Do this three times, and the batter is out. Do this nine times, and the half-inning is over.

Mind you, the standard way of implementing this rule is to instruct the pitcher to deliver a pitch, and to call it a strike no matter where the pitch lands. But what if the pitcher doesn't want the free strike? Rule 8.04 says that if the pitcher fails to deliver the pitch within 12 seconds, the umpire shall call a ball. Or maybe this is where the umpire can exercise his judgement and call the strike in a nonstandard way. Or the umpire could declare the fielding team to have forfeited for "refusing to continue play during a game", per rule 4.15(c).

(Though there is an interesting conflict between rules 6.02(c) and 4.15(c). If the batter refuses to come to the plate, both rules apply, yet the penalties are different.)

This is all very confusing, what with conflicting rules applying to the same situation, and the umpire will have to improvise, per rule 9.01(c). (My favorite example of umpires having to improvise is the case where a switch-hitter faced an ambidextrous pitcher. At the end of the season, they added a new rule to cover this situation.)

Looking for another loophole in the official rules of baseball, I found another way the visiting team could induce a forfeit: Provoke the crowd into rioting for fifteen minutes, then request that the umpire declare a forfeit on the grounds of inadequate security, by rule 3.18. On the other hand, the declaration is at the umpire's discretion, and seeing as you are the ones who provoked the riot, the umpire is unlikely to grant you that one. (So you'll have to provoke the riot surreptitiously.)

Comments (11)
  1. Adam Rosenfield says:

    In ice hockey, the home team gets penalized with a two-minute minor for a delay of game if the crowd does something like rioting or throwing lots of rubber chickens and towels onto the ice.

  2. Jeff says:

    I think it's much simpler (and more enjoyable) to avoid the game of baseball altogether.

  3. In 1971, the Washington Senators were an out away from winning their final home game before moving to Texas and becoming the Rangers when fans rioted and pulled souvenirs off the field, including first base.  The umpire declared a forfeit and a victory for the visiting Yankees.  (To the point here, the riot was not caused by the Yankees but by local anger against owner Bob Short for taking our team away.  I still root against the Rangers for that reason – and against the Minnesota Twins for the same reason!)

  4. pete.d says:

    "…out of the lost half-inning"

    Shouldn't that be "last half-inning"?

    [No, it's the lost half-inning. In the case where the game is called in the middle of the ninth, the last half-inning was the top of the inning! -Raymond]
  5. Jim says:

    I got a same question one time. UMMMMM, hard to answer except to cheat in someways.

  6. Chris says:

    Similar thing happens with Cricket. The game stops as soon as one team cant bat anymore and the other team has more runs.

    Also in the most common 2 innings per side Test Match ( en.wikipedia.org/…/Test_match_cricket ) version of the game, If the team that bats second is sufficiently behind the team that batted first, the first team can make the second team bat again straight away. en.wikipedia.org/…/Follow_on

  7. Bill says:

    Sorry, that crap is what you get for watching such a lazy, slow, uninteresting sport.

  8. cheong00 says:

    both rules apply, yet the penalties are different.

    I think the rules are to be executed more or less like layered exception catcher, where the more detailed ones get the priority to execute first, and the more general ones get executed if there isn't any overlapping rules matches better.

    In that case. if the case matches "pitcher refuse to deliver the pitch within 12 seconds", rule 8.04 should gain priority.

  9. Simon Buchan says:

    Obviously baseball should be defined with Formal Semantics. Or at least come with a reference implementation.

  10. Petr Kadlec says:

    I love sport-rules lawyering! @cheong00: You mean like Lex specialis derogat legi generali?

  11. pete.d says:

    "No, it's the lost half-inning"

    If you say so.  Seems to me, it's only a lost half-inning if it's gone.  And if it's gone, you can't squeeze the last bit of enjoyment out of it.  Only in the scenario where one actually plays the bottom of the ninth, and it is in fact the last half-inning, could one do that.

    But I can live with your version if you insist.  I guess the post is about (in part) nit-picking sports rules, not grammar rules.  :)

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