Rationalization #30. The Prospective Repeal: “It’s a bad law/stupid rule,” is a widely employed ethics dodge, used by everyone from drug dealers to tax cheats. It doesn’t mean that many rules are not bad and stupid however. The World Baseball Classic just demonstrated its management’s incompetence with one of them. As is often the case when bad rules and laws prevail, injustice is the result.
Sixteen national teams are competing in the World Baseball Classic, a relatively new baseball tournament played during MLB’s Spring Training. There are five pools of teams in an elimination tournament. The competitors this year (the tournament is held every four years, sometimes three—never mind, they are still working it out) are Japan, Taiwan, China, SOUTH Korea (the first version of this post erroneously said “North”—wishful thinking on my part), Mexico, Cuba, Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Australia, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada, the U.S., of course, and…Israel. Pool competition just ended (the US is moving on to the next round) and Mexico, Venezuela and Italy all finished with records of 1-2 in their pool games. The tournament doesn’t have time for extended play-off games, so a tie-breaker was triggered.
Under Classic tiebreaker rules, the two teams with the fewest runs allowed per defensive inning in games played between the teams tied during the tournament play an elimination game, and the other is eliminated. The calculation of runs allowed per inning includes “partial innings.” (Hold that thought.) Major League Baseball announced that Venezuela (1.11 runs allowed per defensive inning) and Italy (1.05 runs allowed) will play an elimination game, with Mexico (1.12) out of the tournament. Here is how it stacked up:
Venezuela: 1-2 record, 20 runs scored, 30 runs allowed, 27 defensive innings played
Italy: 1-2 record, 23 runs scored, 29 runs allowed, 28 innings played
Mexico: 1-2 record, 24 runs scored, 28 runs allowed, 25 defensive innings played.
Mexico’s team stats, however, have an inning missing. Against Italy they gave up five runs in the 9th inning to blow a lead and allow Italy a comeback win without registering a single out. Because there was no out (that is, a third of an inning), that 9th didn’t count even as aa “partial inning.” The five runs counted, but the inning does not. If the inning had counted, Mexico would have edged out Venezuela with a 1.o6 score.
But how can you count five runs from an inning that your system says was never played? Good question! This is why Mexico registered a protest. That, and the fact that Mexico beat Venezuela in its last pool game, make its elimination hard to justify. If two teams are tied, wouldn’t the fact that one defeated the other in their only game against each other be the logical “tie-breaker”? (All three teams lost to Puerto Rico.)
Nevertheless, a tie-breaker calculation that counts the runs scored in an inning but not the inning they were scored in is unquestionably incompetent. Almost anything—home run derby, three-inning sudden death, a coin flip, a tug-o-war—would be better.
Pointer: New York Times