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Looking forward to 2021: Carrying this year’s changes forward

Major League BaseballMuch of the 2020 MLB season was improvised, but Commissioner Rob Manfred wants to see two temporary changes moved forward in the 2021 MLB season: the extra-innings rule and expanded playoffs.

The change to extra innings called for a runner to be placed at second base in the 10th inning and beyond in a move designed to save bullpen arms and shorten the length of games. Those of us who saw the rule used in the minor leagues and foreign leagues were not threatened; those who consider themselves traditionalists were. But once the extra-inning rule change was actually used, it seemed to be accepted by players and coaches as a positive addition to the game.

Similarly, fans weren’t thrilled with the announcement that 16 teams would make the playoffs. That, of course, was an economic decision designed to bring in more postseason revenue, with a side argument being that 60 games represented too small a number to firmly establish what teams deserved the playoffs. The latter made sense, with both Houston and Miami winning first-round matches when in past years neither team would have made the playoffs.

Arguably, these two rule changes were bright spots for what was a pretty crappy 2020 MLB season, which is why Commissioner Rob Manfred wants to see them continued in 2021. From AP:

“I like the idea of, and I’m choosing my words carefully here, an expanded playoff format,” Manfred said. “I don’t think we would do 16 like we did this year. I think we do have to be cognizant of making sure that we preserve the importance of our regular season. But I think something beyond the 10 that we were at would be a good change.”

With the added runner rule, the longest of 68 games of 10 innings or longer were a pair of 13-inning contests, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

“I think the players like it,” Manfred said. “I think it’s really good from a safety and health perspective that keeps us from putting players in situations where they’re out there too long or in positions they’re not used to playing.”

The players union would need to sign off on any 2021 use, of course, and that will be the center of future discussions. Other 2020 rule changes may not see approval in 2021, though on the surface they’d be appealing to the players union: continued use of the designated hitter and a continued expansion of rosters from 26 to 28 players. Still, with planning for 2021 already well underway, you can expect discussion of the rule changes and their extension fairly soon after the World Series.

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