Rob Manfred spoke to the media over the all-star break about the rules and issues in baseball and how changes will be coming in the future.
Major League Baseball has had some interesting rule changes in recent seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rob Manfred and the players association have spent the past year-and-a-half fighting over covid restrictions and amendments to make the game suitable for pandemic life. However, this season has seen some form of a return to normalcy. The season is back to the full 162 game schedule, the universal DH was revoked, and we got to experience the All-Star break yet again.
During that break, Manfred took the stage and addressed the media regarding the upcoming collective bargaining agreement. Due to the pandemic, negotiations for said agreement are behind pace, but Manfred is confident a deal will be reached. Here are some of the changes that Rob Manfred expects for next season.
This rule sparked an uproar of criticism and support. Some people find the institution of a runner on second base to start extras as a disgrace to baseball’s long history and tradition. Whereas others find this rule as a great way to not only reduce game length but also to prevent injuries. The major intention of this rule was to reduce the number of 13+ inning games that run over five hours in length and, in that sense, it has worked.
Games are now struggling to make it beyond 13 innings, let alone the ten. Whereas in 2019 the league endured 30 games of at least 13 innings. Despite this, the average length of games is remaining on par with 2019. Therefore, the question is no longer, “Will this reduce game time?” but instead, “Do the players, fans, and league enjoy this rule?”
In my opinion, I do not like it all. Watching the end of games seems so travel-ball-esk and not at all like professional baseball. Whether you view it as gimmicky or a measure to make baseball better, Rob Manfred believes it won’t be around for much longer.
Seven Inning Double-Headers
This is a pretty self-explanatory rule. Instead of teams making up games with normal, nine-inning double-headers, it would be reduced to just seven innings per game. On the surface, this is an outlandish concept that really goes against the tradition of baseball. However, this is exactly what baseball needs. Rob Manfred has spent the last decade it seems trying to reduce the length of games, but no big strides have been made.
The easiest way to do so… simply shorten the length of games. The answer is already in the question. I can easily see why people would dislike this rule, as it goes against the very nature of the sport, but it is one of the most obvious ways to improve the game overall. True baseball fans can attest to not having an issue with games lasting more than three hours, but average sports fans would.
MLB Players even spoke out about their support for the modified double-headers, but Rob Manfred does not care. He has actively disappointed fans and players for years now. So, right when you think baseball got it right for once, he comes out to the All-Star Game and informs everyone this rule will likely be taken away by next year.
Rob Manfred also addressed some possible additions coming next season and both would be game-altering rules. The re-introduction of the universal designated hitter could be coming. For years now, baseball has been on the verge of removing pitchers from the batter’s box. Most figured since last year had DH’s for both leagues, that baseball would simply keep it in place. However, the commissioner shocked the world when he announced the National League would be returning to pitchers hitting.
As a baseball fan, I love watching pitchers hit. It brings a level of small ball and strategic planning to the game that is slowly being forgotten. However, I can also see the argument for maintaining pitcher’s health and that a universal DH would bring higher scoring games. This is a very debatable subject, but Manfred is under the mindset that it will be returning for the 2022 season.
The other new rule Rob Manfred suggested to the media last week was putting limitations on shifting around players. Yet another extremely debatable subject, shifting has engulfed the baseball world as teams look to statistics for improved defensive positioning. A big theme of the commissioner’s press conference was to bring baseball back to its historical ways. While implementing a universal DH would not accomplish this, he thinks reducing the freedom of shifting might.
By forcing teams to keep at least two players on one side of the field, baseball thinks they can increase offensive production. Baseball without shifting is still a difficult sport to score in. However, when teams are studying where players generally hit the ball, they are making it even harder. When scoring is as difficult as it is, interest in the sport gets reduced due to the minimal entertainment value tied with defense.
This rule would come with tremendous amounts of backlash though. Shifting has already become the new norm of baseball. Removing it from the game, or at least restricting it, would go against the way so many teams operate. It is a valuable thing to consider, but to do so might be too controversial. Rob Manfred will have a difficult winter ahead of him as baseball seems to be as chaotic as ever. Making player-friendly changes should be something to focus on and it is debatable whether or not these alterations would accomplish this.
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