Coinciding with MLB commissioner Rob Manfred unilaterally implementing a 60-game season in 2020, additional changes brought about were doubleheaders being reduced to seven innings, a runner automatically being placed on second base for extra innings, and universal designated hitter.
Both rules were in response to uncertainty with attempting to play a season during a pandemic and in effort to protect players. Although the 2021 campaign reverted back to a full schedule, MLB kept with shortened games for doubleheaders and the extra-innings rule.
Oddly, however, the universal DH was done away with despite a long-held expectation it will be part of a new collective bargaining agreement that will need to be agreed to after the 2021 season.
While a universal DH may return, Manfred indicated doubleheaders will go back to normal length and placing a runner on second base in extra innings may be eliminated as well, according to Mark Feinsand of MLB.com:
Commissioner Rob Manfred, speaking to the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, said Tuesday morning that seven-inning doubleheaders and the extra-inning rule that places an automatic runner on second base are not in the league’s “long-term future.”
“I see the extra-inning rule and the seven-inning doubleheader as rules that were adopted based on medical advice to deal with COVID,” Manfred said. “I think they are much less likely to become part of our permanent landscape than some of the other rules that we’ve talked about over time that relate to how the game is being played.”
Earlier this season Arizona Diamondbacks starter Madison Bumgarner threw a no-hitter in one of the seven-inning doubleheader games, but it wasn’t counted as an official no-no because the game was not nine innings.
In 2020, the extra-innings rule made games end nearly 70% of the time in the 10th inning as compared to just less than 50% of the time from 2017-2019, according to Sports Illustrated. That supported MLB’s idea behind having pitchers throw fewer innings and, especially with so many games postponed early in the 2020 season, and to a lesser extent, have players be near each other for a shorter amount of time.
Roberts would support MLB banning shifts
Another potential change could be with defensive shifts and MLB possibly implementing a rule that requires two infielders to be on either side of second base.
Although Dodgers manager Dave Roberts once was against eliminating such defensive strategy, he recently acknowledged having a new perspective.
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