‘Mercy rule’ stirs debate among athletes

Junior outfielder Alli Cook prepares to bat on Feb. 27 in a game against San Francisco State. Photo credit: George Johnston

Most sports fans find nothing more satisfying to watch than their favorite team blowing out its opponent. But the majority of baseball leagues have prevented this from ever happening.

Even though college players are considered adults, they are still subject to the “mercy rule.”

The mercy rule ends a baseball or softball game if too many runs are scored in a specific inning. Essentially, it means that with the amount of time left in the game, the losing team would not be able to muster a comeback.

Alli Cook, a junior outfielder for Chico State’s softball team, said that she welcomes the rule.

“It saves the losing team from any more embarrassment,” Cook said.

Since she has been on the team, she has participated in only a few games where the rule was applied.

Only once in the 2015 season has the softball team encountered this rule in its gameplay. On March 6, Chico State beat Cal State Stanislaus 12-1.

“It’s definitely an accomplishment (winning by way of mercy rule),” Cook said.

Some people argue that the mercy rule should be stopped after high school. Opponents cite that college athletes are mature enough to cope with such large defeats.

Cook said she disagrees with this. If a team couldn’t make up the deficit in the prior innings, who’s to say that it can in the final innings.

Sports scientists have noted that the rule could actually hurt the game. Rather than trying to cut the lead, the losing team may intentionally give up more runs so a game can end sooner.

This rule isn’t known to all though. Chico State baseball’s head coach Dave Taylor said that he has never heard of the mercy rule in baseball.

“I have over 25 years of coaching experience and never encountered that rule,” he said.

The rule extends from Little League all the way to professional baseball. Both the World Baseball Classic and the Olympics implement it in their tournaments.

Chico State junior infielder Andrew Carrillo thinks that the rule makes a lot of sense in tournament play, he said.

“It’s a tournament, so you got to save your pitchers,” Carrillo said.

Now more than ever, the health and safety of players has become a major concern.

Both college softball and baseball games already end early. In a four-game weekend series, the third game always ends at the seventh inning for baseball and the fifth inning for softball, barring a tie.

Coincidentally, these are the same innings the mercy rule would be applied.

However, Carrillo said that if he were on the losing side of the game, he would not want the rule to be applied.

“(I would) want to keep it going,” he said. “It’s a matter of pride and playing hard until it’s over.”

James Groh can be reached at [email protected] or @James_Groh14 on Twitter.