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2020 Baseball rule changes we’d like/hate to see stick around

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Like Dua Lipa, baseball’s got new rules (for this year at least)

Philadelphia Phillies v Miami Marlins Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Baseball in 2020 brought many changes to the actual product on the field, some of which were necessitated by the shortened season and pandemic and some which felt like Rob Manfred taking as an excuse to experiment with rule changes to the sport he’s flirted with before. While it was interesting to watch these changes play out in the laboratory of this weird little 2020 season, some new rules made a better impression than others. Here are our thoughts about which changes should stick around, and which should be relegated to the memory-sarcophagus in which we’re burying the rest of 2020:

Universal DH:

Kate: Yes. Old-heads can whine as much as they want; deep down they know it’s better for lineup construction, better for players as it creates more opportunities for older players who can still mash the ball but are a liability in the field, and better for the game itself to not run pitchers out there to bat to potentially get hurt [glares at Sam Coonrod]. Take your game strategy and blow it out your kazoo.

Eric: Absolutely, except I did not enjoy watching all the NL West teams beat the living shit out of the Mariners this season. The Dodgers and Giants especially just have guys whose names you haven’t heard in 5 years sitting around in their supply closets, just in case they need an extra bench bat. But yes, in general, watching pitchers hit is only fun if you’re not rooting for that team to win.

John: Yes, with the caveat that MLB has to come in strong with their 13 pitcher limit next year, at a minimum. I’d be happy with 12, even. DH is good for offense, but for all the ballyhooing about lack of strategy, the use of a bench and pinch-hitters gets pretty uncommon in AL games. Condense those bullpens, incentivize starters who go longer, and encourage more creative position player use.

Matthew: In my eyes, there was no issue at all with having the DH in one league and not the other. One of the things that makes Major League Baseball unique is that two different leagues play the same sport under the same umbrella but with different rules. I think I enjoy that more than I enjoy how much sense it makes for pitchers to never hit again. The strategy argument can go to hell, I just think it was fun and quirky to have the National League playing by its own set of (admittedly foolish) rules.

Amanda: I am anti-DH in general. However, it is the way baseball is moving and I feel like it’s useless to protest at this point. We all know it’s coming, so just switch to a universal DH and get it over with already.

Joe: This one is easy for me. Pitchers hitting is an eyesore and it always has been. They add nothing to the game but a foregone conclusion and 5 minutes or more of lost time.

Seven-Inning Doubleheaders:

Eric: I like these! We fans still get a ton of baseball all in one day and the players get to play 4 fewer innings, which I feel like would make an even bigger difference in a 162-game season.

John: Across the board, I enjoy doubleheaders. I get why players might find them tough, but as a way to get in some extra full days off, as well as save a few innings, I think they’re a hit. Owners will never give up an extra day of tickets, but they’ve been fun!

Amanda: Love the seven-inning double headers, and I’d love to see them worked into the regular schedule to give players more off days and more wiggle room for postponed games (which will happen, pandemic or not).

Joe: This idea was merely brought on to avoid extra exposure to players. I don’t hate them, but I also don’t necessarily see the point.

Kate: This rule change seems to be popular among players and fans alike, which means almost certainly it will be the one rule change from 2020 Rob Manfred doesn’t sustain.

Matthew: No, baseball games are nine innings long. I will now read the newspaper and pour a glass of whole milk.

Courtesy Runner at Second in Extra-Inning Games:

Joe: Don’t hate this. Adds a sudden-death aspect to extra innings. Adds a little more excitement. Then again, it explicitly benefits the team with the better offense.

Kate: Hated this rule in the minors, hate it even more in the bigs. I know the pitcher doesn’t get charged with an earned run but I still think it’s an undue amount of stress for them to have to pitch under. One bad pitch and you’ve put your team behind, and whether or not that registers in the stats, it makes an already hard job even harder.

Eric: Everything Kate said. Absolutely fucking not. Rule is trash.

John: Yeah. Nah. You can maybe put it in after like… the 12th inning, a la College Football forbidding kicking extra points after a few overtimes, but this was just disorienting and anticlimactic for me more than exciting.

Matthew: I’ll show you where you can put a courtesy runner.

Amanda: I’d find it less offensive to end the game in a tie than to put a courtesy runner out there.

Regionally-Based Schedule:

Joe: This is a hard no for me. Doesn’t make sense to for wild card-eligible teams to never play against each other. I think we’d all agree the Mariners had a more difficult schedule that the Indians did. If Seattle can’t play against Cleveland, or even the same teams Cleveland played against, it’s pretty uneven.

Eric: There are definitely some perks to this for the players, especially for the geographically-sequestered Seattle Mariners. I wouldn’t mind seeing perhaps 60% of a regular season schedule be regionally-based, but I do think there needs to be a couple Midwest and East Coast road trips in there, if only just for us fans so we don’t have to watch the Mariners play Mike Trout 15+ times.

Matthew: If we’re playing 162 again, just make the schedule the same way it was for literally 100 years. I truly think changing too many things would be way more of a hindrance to baseball than a help. As I’ve said in previous answers and will continue to say below, change is supposed to correct an issue, not create one. There was never a problem with the schedule before, even if the Mariners were doomed to geographic fatigue. I like watching them play the Yankees. It’s fun to go to Wrigley Field or Fenway Park. I also really don’t love the idea of watching the Mariners play the AL West teams they already play all the time even more regularly. In other words, making the Mike Trout games a larger portion of the schedule is going to elicit the biggest, hairiest, no from me.

Amanda: This gave me flashbacks to the radical realignment proposal in the mid/late 90s. It felt completely blasphemous back then, but now I’m much more open to it. The distinction between the American and National leagues is nominal now, so I’m in favor of shifting to a more geographically-based league setup and schedule. I don’t think that has to rule out trips to the east coast in their entirety, and it would have to involve geographic realignment. Let’s save some jet fuel, give the environment a boost, and cut back on travel for everyone.

Expanded rosters/Taxi Squads:

John: Pay the minor leaguers more and then cut the MLB rosters back down to 25/26. Absolutely made sense to have the lengthier rosters this year, but let’s shave it down once we’re back to normalish.

Matthew: 28 person rosters were fine. 25 was also fine. The real issue, like John said, is making sure the minor leaguers are compensated fairly.

Kate: I’m a maximalist, so the more the merrier is always my mindset, especially with the three-batter minimum meaning managers can’t just make endless pitching changes. However, I hated that this year’s expanded rosters got rid of the wave of players getting to come up for September—September baseball is such a weird little outlier that I understand why stats types might want to get rid of it, but I have always treasured it, especially as someone who has watched a lot of lousy Mariners teams with the one carrot at the end of a long season being getting to see a wave of fresh faces in September.

Expanded Playoffs:

Eric: They can keep this if they add four more teams to the league and kick the Astros and the Rangers out of the AL West. Those are my terms, Manfred. Take ‘em or leave ‘em.

Kate: I agree with Eric; if they’re expanding the league, moderately expanded playoffs make sense. I look forward to the endless barrage of articles detailing which Mariners teams would have made the playoffs under the new setup, by which I mean I am antici-muting them.

Matthew: No. Rob Manfred is comically bad at addressing the actual problems in the sport he claims to love. Letting half the teams into the playoffs will get new faces in there, sure, but those teams will also more than likely get dumptrucked while their fan bases tear themselves to shreds arguing about legitimacy. In a 162-game season, there would also be teams with like 75 wins getting in, and while that made for a more interesting COVID season, it would be borderline farcical to bring into the normal times again. Stop changing things just because you don’t like the sport, Robert.

Amanda: Absolutely not. I still seethe over the second wild card team. I want the regular season to be a tough grind of a marathon. I want it to be hard to make it to the postseason. I’m probably going to lose this fight because there’s no way baseball resists whatever extra money they make on this, but I don’t like it at all.

Other (specify):

Kate: I hope they keep the no spitting rule. Those dugouts are gross, man.

Joe: Change the stolen base rules. Expecting a player to go from 28 mph to a stand still immediately whilst staying attached to the base is stupid. Go back to the olden days. If the hand hits the base before the tag, he’s safe, so long as it’s not an egregious overslide. It pains me seeing a players belt hovering over the base, but that’s not “touching” the base. He’s safe.

John: LET. THEM. STEAL. FIRST. BASE.

Matthew: Every broadcast booth, both on the radio and television side, needs to have at least one on-air person under 40 years old.

The league should also institute a clock between the previous out and the time when the next hitter needs to be in the batter’s box. I am tired of watching guys gingerly walk out of the on-deck circle, take seven practice swings while they listen to their walkup song, stare at the scoreboard as if they don’t know that the count is 0-0, exchange pleasantries with the umpire and catcher, spit, grab their crotch, dig a hole with their foot, only to then decide they are ready to hit. The period between out and first pitch to the next hitter should take like 30 seconds. That is the real downtime MLB should crack down on to shorten the games.

I also genuinely believe steroids should be allowed. If you don’t want to take them you don’t have to. Most guys wouldn’t anyway. It is silly to outlaw drugs that aren’t outlawed in real life. Let the players smoke weed and take steroids if they want to, because [whispers so quietly it barely registers a sound] that would make baseball cool, which is by far, in its own fucking galaxy, the biggest problem with MLB right now.

Tim: I gotta be honest: Baseball can do whatever they want with all those changes and it won’t affect how I consume the game. What this season has taught me is, while I enjoy the analytical side of the game and yakking about it on the internet, what I enjoy about each individual game is the discrete acts that make up the game: throwing, catching, bat meets ball. I realize people who oppose these changes have varied reasons and so I’m not trying to say this is the only opposition, but to me there is no grand moral arc of the baseball universe which we must preserve by having games be 9 innings long. Universal DH, 7 inning doubleheaders, runners on second: what this year has taught me is I’ll enjoy Rick’s voice on the radio on Sunday afternoon just as much.

Amanda: As the resident sun-hater of Lookout Landing, I wholeheartedly endorse closing the roof during day games. I want this change more than any other.

Your turn to weigh in:

Poll

Universal DH?

This poll is closed

  • 66%
    Heck yeah
    (576 votes)
  • 8%
    Over my dead body
    (71 votes)
  • 25%
    Meh, resistance is futile
    (222 votes)
869 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Seven-inning doubleheaders?

This poll is closed

  • 56%
    Absolutely
    (476 votes)
  • 43%
    No, I want all the baseball I am entitled to!
    (362 votes)
838 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Expanded playoffs?

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    Yes, the more the merrier!
    (144 votes)
  • 48%
    No, making the playoffs SHOULD be hard
    (410 votes)
  • 34%
    Only if the league also expands
    (293 votes)
847 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Courtesy runner at second in extra innings?

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    Yeah, speed the game up and add drama in extras!
    (142 votes)
  • 83%
    I will personally exact vengeance on Manfred if he does this
    (698 votes)
840 votes total Vote Now