The typical youth tournament game has a time limit. It could be an hour and 45 minutes or two hours, but such games will end after the inning concludes once reaching that limit.
This is different from most high school games and others at higher levels with no limits. In those cases, the game is simply over when it’s over, regardless of the amount of time that expires along the way.
The result? Stalling — or intentionally wasting time in an effort to end the game and gain an advantage — will sometimes occur. At minimum, teams hoping to get to the next inning prior to time expiring will accuse the opposing team of stalling, whether they are intending to do so or not.
This can be both a strategic and ethical debate. Strategically, there is nothing in the rules preventing teams from stalling — at least, within reason. Ethically, there are questions whether it is the right thing to do and sets a bad example.
I get the temptation. I’ve had coaches in the past suggest we stall. And since there’s technically nothing preventing us from doing it, it’s a battle that I often fight.
But, I don’t stall. I’ve never been comfortable doing it. That doesn’t mean we rush to help you get to that next inning, but it’s not a strategy I use.
There are many reasons for this. Let’s take a closer look at what stalling is and how it can backfire…
Examples of Stalling
Let’s say that it’s the bottom of the fifth inning and the team at the plate is down by a run. Eight minutes remain.
The team in the field realizes this. They take more time than usual to warm up between innings. The catcher loses his mask. Players congregate on the mound in between pitches. The pitcher shakes off the catcher repeatedly and steps off at times he never would. The coach makes a mound visit at a time that would never require it. Maybe he even makes a pitching change with two outs and no one on base.
This can happen at the plate as well, of course. The batter steps out between pitches and takes extra time. Walks down the line slowly to have a discussion with the coach. Calls time repeatedly.
These things are all stalling. Understand that stalling isn’t simply refusing to play at the speed that the opposition wants. The offense may want to move things along more quickly, especially if they get a couple of quick outs. But the team in the field doesn’t need to match that speed.
Simply taking more pitches in the normal flow of the game wouldn’t be stalling. But intentionally slowing things down — doing things that are out of the ordinary for the sole purpose of wasting time — would be examples of intentionally stalling.
Does it Set a Bad Example?
This is the ethical argument. Some may think that stalling is completely within the rules and there’s nothing wrong with it. For me, it feels wrong.
Stalling is unnatural and feels unnecessary. It falls under the category of bad sportsmanship. And it will almost certainly generate bad blood between teams.
By stalling to win, it pushes the line regarding how far you’ll bend the rules to get the win. And it suggests that maybe you weren’t good enough to win the game without stalling.
It Can Energize Your Opponent
Generating bad blood by stalling can be a bad thing for your team. If you stall, you sure better hope you do so successfully. Because the other team is going to get fired up — and they may not have otherwise.
If you fail to stall “well enough” to end the game, they’re going to be ready to take out their frustration and make you pay.
It Can Backfire Psychologically
Ethics aside, think about the message this is sending both your team and the opposition. It suggests that you don’t believe you can hang on to win the game by playing in the normal flow of the game.
By stalling, it suggests you believe your team can’t win without ending the game now. As a result, what happens if the game moves to the next inning? How will your own team respond? Will they now lack confidence?
Just Play the Game
I’m not suggesting you rush to end the inning before time expires with a lead. Simply play the way you normally would until the game is over.
Yes, you want to win. The kids want to win. But personally, that’s not a way that I want to win a game. And any game that ends as a result of stalling will undoubtedly end amid a cloud of controversy.
There will be a question whether you truly deserved to win that game. And that’s just not an example I want to set for my team.
What examples of stalling have you seen in games? How do you feel about it?
Let me know in the comments below!