Aaron Boone wasn’t happy on Thursday. He didn’t like that his team was getting whooped by Cleveland, he didn’t like how his players performed on the way to the eventual 19-5 loss, and he especially didn’t like that he had to send first baseman Mike Ford to the mound to pitch through the final two innings of the game—even though nearly every player in the dugout seemed overjoyed about that last bit.
“It’s not fun to have to put in a position player in that kind of situation. Even though for Ford and some of the guys, it’s fun and guys can have some fun with that,” Boone told the New York Daily News. “But sitting in my chair, you worry about hurting someone. Throwing up the flag like that and sitting there and getting kicked in the mouth is no fun.”
Position players pitching isn’t exactly a new phenomenon, but rather one that’s become more common now that teams seem to be more careful with the arms in their bullpen. For most fans, it’s a fun quirk in the game that’s celebrated by Cut4 on Twitter. Boone, however, believes the decision to put a non-pitcher on the mound does less to save the arms in the rotation, and more to transfer injury risk onto that player. With the Little League World Series approaching, he offers up the idea of a mercy rule to limit that risk.
“I think there would be a lot of benefits to that,” Boone said about the mercy rule. “I think you’d probably eliminate a lot of unwritten rules; the people running and swinging at 3-0 pitches in the ‘wrong scores.’ If you get to this point after seven innings or whatever... there might be something to that, some merit to that and worth exploring.”
The question, of course, is what exactly the cut-off for such a situation would be. In Little League, the game is called when a team has a 10-run lead through four innings, or 15-run lead through three (out of six total innings). If you were to keep things somewhat proportional to a professional nine-inning game—while keeping Boone’s suggestion of “seven innings or whatever”—that could be something like a 15-run lead through eight, or a 23-run lead through seven (more or less). With that set up, the Yankees’ loss against Cleveland on Thursday wouldn’t even qualify since New York was only down 10 when Ford came in at the top of the eighth, and the team didn’t face a deficit larger than that until after the first baseman started pitching.
In that case, maybe it’d be best to just follow the little-league run benchmarks and call games at 10 runs through eight and 15 runs through seven. Of course, if that were to be implemented, then fans would lose out on not just getting to watch a position player pitch, but also the kinds of monumental leads that a team as good as the Astros can put on a team as bad as the Orioles, and we just can’t have that.