MLB Going Back to Their Old Ways
Rob Manfred held his annual ‘State of MLB’ speech during the All-break and made some bold statements regarding the seven innings doubleheaders and the extra innings rules that have been in place since the shortened 2020 COVID season.
Manfred said that the extra innings rules, with a runner starting on second base in the 10th inning and the seven-inning doubleheaders could be on their way out in 2022 when a new collective bargaining agreement is made between the league and players association. Many have reported that those negotiations this offseason could be difficult, but Manfred said otherwise.
“We have a very professional working relationship with the MLBPA,” Manfred told USA Today on Tuesday. “More generally, this whole relationship thing gets overplayed and misinterpreted. The Fact that you have a period of time, which we admittedly had last spring where we had serious disagreements which became public, I don’t think that is an indicator of whether you’re going to get a new agreement.
Our No. 1 priority is to get a new agreement without a work stoppage. Every single time that was our No. 1 priority. You know, it’s worked out pretty good so far.”
Returning to the past
However, bigger – -and likely more important news — is that the rule changes made for the pandemic seasons are likely going to be out in the future.
“These rules were adopted based on medical advice,” Manfred said. “Those are less likely they will become part of our permanent landscape. It was a COVID related change. I don’t think seven innings doubleheaders are going to be part of our future going forward. The rule changes were put in place to reduce time spent at the ballpark during the pandemic, and with vaccine rollout well underway and every MLB ballpark returning to 100 percent capacity, they are no longer required.”
Both rule changes have been hotly debated since the rules were implemented, and when the rules were kept in place for the 2021 season many thought that the rules were permanent, but Manfred’s proclamations led many fans to believe that things will return to the way of old in 2022.
Manfred didn’t directly mention the extra-inning rules, but he was asked about both of the rule changes and he said that both rule changes were made based on player safety during the pandemic.
MLB Going Back to Pre-Covid Rules?
The exaggerated shift is something that many baseball fans have complained about over the last few years with more teams now regularly deploying their infield to better defend hitters. As a response, Manfred and MLB are testing different strategies in the minor leagues this season that require two infielders to be on each side of second base.
“Let’s just say you regulated the shift by requiring two infielders on each side of second base,” Manfred said. “What does that do? It marks the game look like what it looked like when I was 12 years old.”
The idea in limiting how teams can defend certain hitters is that it will create more offense and more baserunners. This is something that baseball has struggled with in the last few years, but since the crackdown on pitchers using sticky foriegn substances in June, offensive numbers are up across the sport.
Still, Manfred is hoping that if defenses are limited in where they are positioned it will return the game more to what it used to be.
“It’s not change,” Manfred said. “It’s kind of restoration. That’s why people are in favor of it. I’m hopeful that we will have productive conversations with the MLBPA about non-radical changes to the game that will restore it to being played in a way that is closer to what many of us enjoy historically.”
Moving to a new era?
While it sounds like the game could be “restored” back to it’s form pre-pandemic, there could be one major change — a new city.
The Oakland Athletics have tried for years to get a new stadium in the Bay Area, but multiple stadium proposals have been rejected through the years. In the spring, MLB gave the A’s permission to explore the possibility of moving to another city, most notably Las Vegas.
“The Oakland process is at the end,” Manfred said. (Owner) John Fisher and (President) Dave Kaval have devoted literally millions of dollars to the effort to get a ballpark proposal that can be supported by the city of Oaklan and Alameda County. The proposal is in front of the relevant government authorities. There are real crucial votes taking place over the next months, and that’s going to determine the fate of baseball.
“So we’re going to know one way or another what’s going to happen in Oakland in the next couple of months. If you get a ballpark, the relocation process, whether it’s Las Vegas or a border array of cities that are considered, will take on more pace.”
Manfred did mention that Las Vegas is a “viable” city for a Major League club and with the NHL and NFL having franchises based in Las Vegas it appears that more sports could eventually follow, including MLB.
Major League Baseball has a lot to figure out in the next several months and it all starts with a new collective bargaining agreement this offseason, which will include many of the potential rule changes.