Finally, at long last, baseball is back, but I ask the same question I asked in the last article for The Bullpen, what was the cost to bring baseball back?
It felt like an eternity ago, but back in February, MLB instituted new rules changes that would help the pace-of-play. Those included an expanded 26-man roster, September call ups being capped to a 28-man roster, position players only being allowed to pitch in extra innings, and most importantly, the three-batter minimum rule for pitchers.
These changes weren’t a love at first sight, but as a fan, it made me ponder how teams will use pitchers now. I was a little disappointed in the fewer September call ups, meaning lees MiLB players getting a chance at The Show, but I could live with it. To me, it didn’t hurt the core rules that baseball was built on.
Now, after disastrous negotiations on both the MLB’s and MLBPA’s part, a 60-game shortened season will face even more rule changes. Here is a brief summary of some of the rules being implemented for the 2020 season:
- Players report for COVID-19 testing on July 1 and Spring Training 2.0 will start two days later on July 3.
- The 2020 season will officially begin July 23 with four teams playing their Opening Days, and July 24 for the remaining teams. The season will conclude Sept. 27 with each team playing 60 games in 66 days.
- The DH will be universally used across the MLB.
- Teams will open the season with a 30-man roster, which will be reduced to 28 after two weeks. After four weeks, the rosters will be set at 26 for the remainder of the season.
- During extra-innings, the final out of the previous inning will start each half-inning on second base until a team wins.
- There is a 10-day IL for both position players and pitchers, and the 60-day IL has been reduced to 45 days.
- There is a separate IL for players that test positive for COVID-19, have symptoms, or had confirmed exposure to the coronavirus. This IL has no maximum or minimum days.
- The Trade Deadline is Aug. 31 and MLB’s transaction freeze was lifted on Friday.
- Players can opt out (with pay) at any point if they are considered high-risk.
The only MLB franchise that may be subject to other health and safety rules is the Toronto Blue Jays because they are based in Canada and fall under a separate government’s jurisdiction.
A majority of the rules, health and safety protocols, and season structure changes I can live with, I actually even agree with. But there are two rules in particular that completely infuriate me: Starting with a runner on second base in extra innings and the universal DH.
This isn’t baseball anymore. The universal DH is fine in some regards, but the runner on second base is insulting to the game and the fans. The whole point of baseball is to manufacture runs. But when that run is handed to you at second base, so much strategy, effort, and excitement are thrown away.
When I played in tournaments with travel ball teams, there were dozens of teams playing each other over five, four, sometimes even three days. That was a good enough reason to put a runner on second base in extra innings — games needed to be played in a short time frame. Well, the MLB has 66 days, so an extra inning game that lasts five hours isn’t going to hurt, it gives fans more of a reason to watch. That is something the long-time fans of baseball enjoy.
Remember Oct. 26, 2018? Dodger fans might hate the end result of that World Series, but I was glued to the screen for every second of Game 3’s 18 inning, seven hours and 20 minutes contest. Fans literally got two games for the price of one, and a 2-1 finish with a Max Muncy walk-off home run was a cherry on top. SP Nathan Eovaldi, who was supposed to start Game 4, pitched seven innings from the 11th inning on. It is by far one of my favorite games in recent memories, and I am not a fan of either team — that says something.
The DH was first adopted by the American League Jan. 11, 1973. It was only a matter of time before it was adopted by the National League. As a Yankee fan, I am indifferent about this rule. As a baseball fan, I am a little sad I won’t be able to see Madison Bumgarner, Bartolo Colón, or Clayton Kershaw hit anymore, but for health and safety reasons I understand. I also see this as an opportunity of some more players to get a shot at facing MLB pitching. Ultimately, the DH may only hurt opposing pitchers in the NL and benefit AL teams when they play an NL team.
If these rules are necessary to bring baseball back in 2020, OK. I can swallow the bullet and live with it. But I would not be OK with these rules being implemented beyond this season, and I hope Commissioner Rob Manfred realizes this for the sake of the game and the fans.
Cover photo courtesy of Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox
My name is Sebastian and I am a senior at Northern Arizona University. I am a double major in journalism and communication, along with a minor in German. I have been in various editorial positions and have contributed articles to The Lumberjack, NAU's student-run newspaper.