This MLB season was different than what we have ever seen before – with new rules and expanded playoffs in place.
Many of these rules were put into place directly because of the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic in a truncated season. Of course, fans soon began to take a stance on whether they would like to see the new rules continued.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, who has already spoken publicly about wanting to expand the playoff field for a 162-game regular season, joined RADIO.COM’s “Big Time Baseball” podcast with host Jon Heyman and was asked about which rules are most likely to stay beyond 2020.
“If I had to handicap them, I think I would say the extra-inning rule probably has the best chance of surviving,” Manfred said. “Most people came to realize that the rule adds a layer of strategy and sort of a focus at the end of the game that could be helpful to us over the long haul. So, I give that one the best chance.”
Manfred has said in previous interviews that the rule in which a runner is placed on second base to start the 10th inning has gotten much more positive feedback than anticipated and that it was a lesson he has taken away from the season when it comes to implementing changes.
“Because our fans and media love the game so much ... their natural reaction to change is that they’re against it,” he said. “I think this year was an example with the seven-inning doubleheaders and the tiebreaker rules, we did that because we had to get through the season. One of the more interesting things that occurred is people were more positive about those changes when they saw them in action.”
Manfred on the DH
Among the other major rule changes were the seven-inning doubleheaders, which Manfred pegged as the worst odds to continue, and the universal designated hitter, which he was uncertain about.
“My reluctance is this — if we eliminate the DH in the National League, a brand of baseball becomes extinct,” he said. “Because nobody plays without a DH other than the National League. So, it does concern me.”
Manfred on playoffs
One concern Heyman brought up is that the current field of 16 teams in the postseason includes teams with sub-.500 records. Manfred, who's a proponent of expanded playoffs, acknowledged that and added that an expanded playoff field for a 162-game season would likely consist of either 12 or 14 teams.
“Absent a full schedule, it was important this year to give more teams access to the playoffs ,” he said. “Having said that, I do think that we have had the most selective playoff format of any major professional sport. I think that’s an important thing in our sport and will continue to bear on our thinking. … I like the idea of a little broader format – whether it’s 12 or 14 – that remains to be seen …. I do think 16 – it is a number that is larger than what we are looking at going forward.”
Manfred on electronic strike zone
Over the last several years, baseball has embraced incorporating technology, particularly instant replay, in order to improve the game and correct egregious calls from umpires. That technology has yet to expand to the strike zone, although Manfred envisions baseball going that route in the future.
“We owe it to our fans to use technology in order to get every single call right, if it’s possible,” he said. “I do think it’s possible that the technology is good enough and I think that the technology could give us a more accurate strike zone if that’s the way we decide to go.”