According to reporting by USA Today’s Bob Nightengale last night, Major League Baseball, “fearing that the pandemic could create havoc with their scheduling once again,” plans on bringing back the runner on second base in extra innings and seven-inning doubleheaders they had in 2020, though there are still no decisions on another expanded postseason or the universal designated hitter in 2021 after MLB implemented those changes for the 60-game COVID campaign.
“While the union is expected to approve the rule changes for the 2021 season,” Nightengale wrote, “... the two sides still have not determined whether there will be a universal DH or an expanded postseason with the rosters remaining at 26 players.”
“MLB has proposed implementing a universal DH in exchange for an expanded postseason — which would generate additional revenue with the extra round of playoffs televised by ESPN — but the two sides have been at a stalemate.
“Most baseball executives still believe there will be a universal DH this season, but unless the union approves an expanded playoff field, it may not happen. MLB is seeking a 14-team playoff field — two fewer teams than a year ago but four more than their format since 2012.”
If “most baseball executives” believe there will be a universal DH again in 2021 (or as part of the next CBA), it contradicts previous reporting which suggested that MLB’s 30 teams were told to prepare for the ‘21 season without a DH in the National League.
“MLB instructed clubs in a memo last week to proceed under the assumption the DH will not be used in the NL this year,” The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal wrote in December, before adding that, “few will complain if the league and union reach agreement to the contrary.”
“We’re going to assume that we’re not going to have the DH in the National League this year,” Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo told reporters last month when asked how he was going about his business this winter without knowing if he’d need a designated hitter.
“That’s just the way we’re planning it, and if that changes like it changed last year we’ll make an adjustment.
“That’s kind of how — for our preseason planning stages — that’s how we’ve done it, we’re going to kind of build a National League style of team, without a typical designated hitter involved in it, but a team that will compete without a designated hitter, but still — that’s just the way we’ve attacked it early on in the [offseason] and again, we’re at the infancy stages of kind of putting together the final parts of this roster.”
Manager Davey Martinez talked in his own Zoom call with reporters in December about the rules for 2020 and which he’d keep or give up if it was up to him.
“Admittedly, at first I didn’t really like the DH in the National league,” Martinez said.
“As we played last year, I kind of got accustomed to it. I liked it. It gives us another bat in our lineup, which is kind of nice.”
“The one rule that I’m still on the bubble with is the 10th inning rule,” he continued.
“I kind of liked it, and then I don’t like it.
“When I saw what it could do, it kind of helps us, it helps our pitching staff, especially our bullpen guys. Where you don’t have to send — we play 17 innings, and all of a sudden a guy who’s done really well, but you use him for two innings you have to send him down, so, but as you guys know I’m an old school guy, I love the game the way it was played for many, many years. It’s something that I had to adjust to, but it went well.”
One thing Martinez really did like in the end?
“I tell you what I definitely liked: I liked the seven-inning doubleheaders a lot. Those 2-hour and 20-minute games were very nice.”