Yesterday, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred spoke about the state of baseball and some possible permanent changes to baseball in 2021.
Before Game 1 of the World Series between the Colorado Rockies arch-rival and the Tampa Bay Rays starting in Arlington, Texas on Tuesday, Commissioner Rob Manfred had an interview with the Associated Press. In the interview, he discussed a wide array of things, including the changes to baseball in 2020 that may stick around in 2021.
Two of the things that Manfred expressed that he hopes will stay the most are the expanded playoffs and the runner on second base when starting extra innings. For the expanded playoffs, Manfred does not want 16 teams to make it, though, as they did in 2020.
“I don’t think we would do 16 like we did this year,” said Manfred. “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.”
He wants 14 teams to make the playoffs and he was an advocate for 14 even before the pandemic.
As for the extra-inning rule with a runner starting on second base to start the frame, Manfred said that people were “wildly unenthusiastic” about it (and other changes) but he thinks that once people saw the rules in place, they were much more receptive.
“I think the players like it,” Manfred said in regards to the extra innings rule. “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.”
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There were only 68 extra-inning games in 2020 and only two of them went 13 innings, which was the longest games by innings in the season.
Manfred also said that he likes the three-batter minimum rule for relief pitchers and he thinks that it will stay on for 2021.
“There’s nothing about what happened this year that has changed, not only in my mind, but anybody in the game’s mind about it, and I think that’s here to stay,” Manfred said.
He would not tip his hand on something that would impact the Colorado Rockies: a universal designated hitter. It was used in 2020 and Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon expressed his disdain with it as did pitcher Jon Gray. Manfred said that the universal DH is something that he would want to bargain with the MLBPA on.
MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark was asked about the changes too and he, essentially, said no comment, at least for the time being.
“We made a number of one-year changes this season under unique circumstances,” Clark wrote in an email to the AP. “We are gathering feedback from players and we’ll bring that to the league at the appropriate time. Obviously, protecting health and safety will remain among several important considerations as those talks unfold.”
Unless the MLBPA objects, it looks like most of, if not all, of the temporary 2020 changes will be here to stay.