Having Extra-Inning Games End in a Home Run Derby Might Set Up Well for Athletics

John Hickey

Is it time for Major League Baseball to become a little more like the National Hockey League?

Dodgers’ third baseman Justin Turner thinks that, in this age of pandemic, it is.

Turner has put forth a novel idea in the age of novel coronoavirus: having extra-inning games end in a home run derby. It’s a suggestion he says would just apply for whatever number of games are played in a shortened 2020 season, whenever that might be.

Under the Turner plan, teams tied after nine innings would play a 10 inning. If neither team scores, the game would be decided on a home-run derby, much like an NHL shootout. Each team would nominate three hitters, give them five outs and the side with the most homers wins.

The idea, Turner says, would be a one-year trial. With the scheduled likely to be compressed with doubleheaders and fewer days off as baseball attempts to play as much as it can during a time of COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, players are going to be asked to get by on less rest than normal. Wiping out the possibility of playing 12 or 15 or more innings might help mitigate that.

For a team like the Oakland A’s with lots of power, there would be an obvious advantage. With 2018 home run champ Khris Davis and two 36-homer guys from 2019 in Matt Olson and Matt Chapman, the A’s would have no shortage of power to push forward.

There would be issues, of course. If managers can name hitters, can they also name the pitcher they believe is best suited to keep the ball in the yard? Would a pitcher or player who’d been lifted from the game be eligible for the derby? But the entire concept does have some merit.

“This is my opportunity to push for a home run derby in extra innings,” Turner told Spectrum SportsNet. “Instead of playing 17 innings you get one extra inning, you play the 10 inning, and no one scores, then you go to a home run derby. You take each team’s three best hitters and you give them all five outs and see who hits the most homers.”

With baseball having been somewhat reluctant to adopt to radical change, the idea likely doesn’t have much of a chance to be instituted.

But, as Turner suggested, fans might be all in favor.

"You want to keep fans in the stands until the end of the game," he said. "I know when I go to hockey games, I actually enjoy watching the shootouts. That keeps me in my seat, so maybe a home run derby will do that as well."