As a die-hard Chicago Cubs fan and National League rules guy, I didn’t expect any of this season’s rules changes to appeal to me. But some of them did.
Chicago Cubs fans got to see some possible new rules. Will MLB keep all, some, or none of the 2020 rules changes in place for 2021 and beyond? MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred indicated before the start of the 2020 World Series that serious consideration was being given to a couple of the changes.
Manfred voiced support for expanded playoffs. Thumbs up. Sixteen teams in the postseason were probably overkill, but necessary in 2020’s COVID season. Moving forward, it seems that 12 to 14 teams could be the happy place that keeps the regular season from losing significance and keeps more teams alive in the playoff hunt. That’s good for baseball and fans.
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The MLB Commish also opined that the extra-inning runner on second base rule could stay. Thumbs down. Ok, the longest extra-inning game in 2020 was 13-innings. My good friends at Fangraphs did the work for me about this issue before the season. The bottom line is it’s not an issue. But Manfred thinks it’s so cool. My solution? Games end after 12 complete innings. Baseball needs to fall in love with the tie game.
Manfred indicated the remainder of the rules were still possible but contingent on an agreement with the MLBPA.
The universal designated hitter. Thumbs up. I have to admit I expected to hate this rule completely. However, the more 2020 Nationa League baseball I watched, the less I missed seeing Yu Darvish or Kyle Hendricks look as lost as little leaguers at the plate. I’m a convert on this one.
Did the three batter minimum before a pitching change matter? Again the sabermetric gurus at Fangraphs already had the answer to that question before the 2020 season. Their conclusion? It barely mattered. It seems, though, that fans liked the new rule. If it barely mattered, then what’s the harm in keeping the rule? Thumbs up.
Suspended games continued rather than start over. Thumbs up. If a game to be cut short before it is official, it will be continued at a later date. I never understood restarting a suspended game all over again. This change makes sense.
One last thing Manfred indicated he is considering eliminating the defensive shift. I’m ambivalent about doing that, but I’d welcome readers to vote on that proposal and the other rules changes. Finally, I and everyone else hopes that we as a nation are in a place where we can all go out to the ballgame again. On that, I totally agree with the Commish.