As we head into the abbreviated season, MLB’s owners are enacting several rule changes. Some of these rule changes were announced for the 2020 season back in 2019, while others are being put into place to deal with the realities of our COVID altered world.
For the last few years, Manfred has been pushing “solutions” for the problems confronting his league as it gets ready for the future. Most of these suggestions have been widely panned by baseball fans because the feel more like backyard baseball rules than something you’d see in a league that earned $10.5 billion in 2019. But he keeps trotting these ridiculous ideas out to general disgust.
Since the 2020 season will be meaningless statistically, other than wins and losses, Manfred is going to force through his rule changes to see what happens. There are a few good ideas in this list, but there isn’t many of them and it just gets worse as you dig into them.
The universal designated hitter: After years of fighting it, the National League will adopt the designated hitter for at least the next 60-games. A league that has plate appearance after plate appearance wasted by pitchers is going to see some real offense from more players that can actually hit. This means that there we’ll be a longer line-up and more opportunities for their teams to score runs; and runs are incredibly exciting!
The other positive with this rule change is that the pitchers will face less risk of injury — an errant pitch could easily knock a pitcher out of the game and the rotation for weeks on end. This is honestly a rule I hope becomes permanent as it will make life easier for pitchers and games more entertaining for fans.
The loss of the 60 day IL: With a 60-game season, the 60 day injured list just doesn’t make any sense. But this is one rule change I would like to see modified and made permanent heading into the 2021 season and beyond; while most broken bones can heal and be rehabbed within that 60 day window, the other injuries that side line players on this list often take way longer to heal.
Manfred and the MLBPA should has out an injured reserve, like the NFL, and actually give those players enough time to heal while minimizing the pressure that can be applied to rush them back into the lineup or rotation.
An active roster of 28 players: One of the rule changes announced prior to the start of the 2019 season, clubs were supposed to have 28 man rosters this year. Instead they’ll start the 2020 season with 30, that will shrink to 28 after 15 days into the season, and than shrink to 26 after the 29th day.
The three batter minimum: Another rule changed announced last season, set to take effect this year, the three batter minimum means that any relief pitchers will be required to face three batters prior to being eligible for replacement. Manfred’s thought process is that the warm-up pitches afforded to new relievers slow down the game too much and this needs to be eliminated by making it harder for managers to use their situational specialist.
While roster construction and managerial styles will adapt to the new rule, it just sucks to see such a unique part of baseball’s decision making process vanish. Figuring out which pitchers specialized in right- or left-handed batters out were one of the more fun elements of roster construction in the league; as well as one of the most challenging managerial decisions facing the team’s manager. And now, we won’t have that thanks to this stupid rule.
The 26 man roster: While I absolutely love the flexibility of the 28 man roster, shrinking the roster down to 26 after 29 days just feels arbitrary. The league announced the 28 man roster would be permanent last season, why the hell are kind of reneging on that for the 2020 season? It jut doesn’t make sense to me, especially since there will not be a minor league season this year.
The 30 man “Taxi squad”: This is more like a practice squad than taxi squad, team’s will be able to travel with an extra three players from their 60 man pool on road trips, but it will still be important for the many of these clubs.
This practice squad will give minor league players a chance to develop despite the cancellation of the MiLB season, the fact that mid season promotions from the taxi squad will be more difficult than promoting from the minor league affiliate is just down right asinine. Injuries are still going to happen, and with the roster size shrinking to 26 players the lack of depth available is going to make thing very difficult for clubs as this season wraps up.
The new extra innings rule: Extra innings will start with a runner on second base, and you have to use up the player ahead of the current batter to do it.
he runner placed on second base at the start of each half-inning shall be the player (or a substitute for such player) in the batting order immediately preceding that half-inning’s leadoff hitter. By way of example, if the number five hitter in the batting order is due to lead off the tenth inning, the number four player in the batting order (or a pinchrunner for such player) shall begin the inning on second base.MLB.com
This means that if your four hole hitter strikes out in the bottom of the ninth, then in the bottom of the tenth that four hole hitter will be on second base no matter what happened in their previous at bat. If you have a hitter that struggles against left handed pitching and he’s facing a left handed reliever in the bottom of the ninth with two outs; why wouldn’t a major league manager have that batter whiff on four bunts considering they’ll have a runner in scoring position?
Obviously, that’s not going to happen if they’re down by a run or more…but this rule just seems absolutely ripe for exploitation. Which, when it happens, will be just deserts for Manfred.