Legends On Deck

Do 2020 Rule Changes Have a Future in MLB?

The 2020 season is a season unlike any other.  A 60 game schedule, regional travel, COVID outbreaks, no crowds and rule changes have all marked the times.  Will any of these changes have a long term impact on the game?

Rule Changes

  • Universal Designated Hitter.  Much to the chagrin of NL purists, this seems like a rule that’s here to stay.  There’s been discussion of a universal DH for many years.  The case for the DH is simple; it extends the careers of good hitters.  And, we don’t have to watch pitchers bat.  It’s a win-win.
  • Runner on Second Base in Extra Innings.  This rule has it’s benefits.  In a normal year, 162 regular season games makes for a very long season.  Extra inning games often go deep into the night.  This rule is not that objectionable for regular season games.  It is most similar to College Football overtime, where a team starts with the ball at the opposing team’s 25 yard line.  MLB should consider keeping this.
  • Shortened games for Double Headers.  This rule was passed after the season began.  In effort to quickly make-up rain outs, MLB implemented a 7 inning rule for doubleheaders.  Under the circumstances, the league is just doing what it takes to make this season happen.  I am a proponent of scheduled doubleheaders, but there doesn’t seem like any compelling reason to cut off two innings of each game.

Scheduling Changes

  • A shorter season.  A few years ago, I wrote about baseball’s weather problem.  MLB should find a way to start the regular season in mid-April and end in mid-September.  In 1961, they expanded the season eight games (from 154 to 162).  Returning to 154 games would take over a week off the season and not really mess (too much) with the record books.  Scheduling doubleheaders would also help.  MLB might even consider having teams play their first couple weeks of the regular season in the Spring Training homes.  Some kind of early season tournament might also be interesting.
  • Expanded postseason.  This year’s postseason will include 16 teams.  While that’s kind of a fun twist on an abnormal season, allowing more than half the league to make the postseason seems a little absurd.  The lowest seeded team is likely to have a losing record.  I do think having a three game Wild Card series is preferable to one game elimination.  Several months ago, I proposed a different postseason format that involve the top 8 teams overall (regardless of league or division).  I would much prefer rewarding top performers over sub .500 teams having a shot to win it all.

Organizational Changes

  • Realignment.  I wrote extensively a few weeks back about by support for permanently realigning the league.  It might be time to rethink the American and National League altogether.  Under the current schedule, teams are limited to playing only teams within their region.  MLB should consider realigning the teams into three regions:  MLB East, MLB Central and MLB West.  Then, implement a new postseason arrangement inviting the top eight teams to the postseason (regardless of the region in which they play).

Everything is on the table for the 2020 season.  The more interesting question is, how will these changes impact the 2021 season and beyond?

Brian Koss
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