Running up the Score

An article this morning talks about a coach who was suspended for running up the score on the other team. The final score was 55-0. In softball. I’m not sure how to take this. If you’re talking a game like soccer (as is referenced in the article) or basketball, you can simply run around the field (court) and try to make sure the opponent doesn’t have the opportunity to score. You practice your skills and the other team still feels reasonably okay with it, as you didn’t score and score and score on them. I see no problem with this.

In a game like football, the clock will run out eventually, but the team must keep moving so that the other team does not have a chance to score. This means that even if the superior team keeps putting in worse and worse players, if the other team cannot stop them, the score will grow. What are you supposed to do? Play poorly enough, say by fumbling the ball or throwing interceptions, so that the other team gets more chances? That’s not right.

In a game like baseball or softball, where there is effectively no clock, even this tactic won’t work. You can tell your batters to get up and not swing – but what does that do? With poor enough pitching, the opposing team could simply walk the bases full and you would still score.

You could have them attempt to strike out – but what does that do? It actually may affect your team’s ability to hit the ball if they go out and try to miss on purpose. As Ichiro Suzuki found out, even subtle changes can dramatically affect your batting average. Surely intentionally swinging the wrong way could have the opposing effect.

Moreover, usually softball (and baseball) teams don’t have depth – you might have two players at every position, but in many cases even that isn’t a sure thing. While football teams may have three or even four players for a single position, and can put in those players as the score grows more lopsided, that’s not often an option in softball (or baseball).

Though I don’t know the circumstances, I suspect strongly that I’d end up on the side of the winning coach here. If your team is bad enough that they cannot stop the bleeding, even after a 30-run first inning, perhaps you ought to consider that the game should be forfeit, rather than expeting the other team to play poorly so your team doesn’t feel so badly.

And if the league doesn’t like it, add mercy rules to earlier innings. For our sons, they can score only 5 runs per inning, and if the other team is ever up by a score of 10-0, the game is called. Why wait until the fifth inning to check for such a situation?