Commissioner on future of rule changes
7-inning doubleheaders, extra-innings automatic runner not in league's 'long-term future'
DENVER -- Two rules instituted during the pandemic could be on their way out of Major League Baseball as early as the 2022 season.
Commissioner Rob Manfred, speaking to the Baseball Writers' Association of America, said Tuesday morning that seven-inning doubleheaders and the extra-inning rule that places an automatic runner on second base are not in the league’s “long-term future.”
“I see the extra-inning rule and the seven-inning doubleheader as rules that were adopted based on medical advice to deal with COVID,” Manfred said. “I think they are much less likely to become part of our permanent landscape than some of the other rules that we've talked about over time that relate to how the game is being played.”
Those other rules include banning the shift, which Manfred believes would be supported by front offices around the game.
“Let's just say you've regulated the shift by requiring two infielders each side and second base. What does that do?” Manfred said. “It makes the game look like what it looked like when I was 12 years old. It's not change; it's kind of restoration, right?
“I think front offices in general believe it would have a positive effect on the play of the game. I’m hopeful, without going into the specifics of rule by rule, that we will have productive conversations with the MLBPA about, let me use my words, non-radical changes to the game that will restore it to being played in a way that is closer to what many of us enjoyed historically.”
The seven-inning doubleheader and new extra-inning rules were implemented in 2020 as MLB tried to get through a 60-game season in the midst of the pandemic. Those rules returned for the 162-game schedule in 2021, though had Manfred known what the climate of the country would look like by the summer, they might have been eliminated earlier.
“At the point in time we adopted seven-inning doubleheaders for this year, we didn't know that the country was going to look like it looks right now,” he said. “As a matter of fact, we were really scared that it was going to look very, very differently. If I knew it was going to be like this, might we have done different rules? Maybe.”
Manfred was also asked about the possibility of the National League permanently adopting the designated hitter, which it did for the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
“I think it would be a non-radical change, but I’m not going to speculate on whether we’re going to propose it or get it,” he said.
MLBPA executive director Tony Clark also held a Q&A with BBWAA members on Tuesday prior to Manfred’s session, noting that players “are willing to talk about adjustments” to the game moving forward.
“We look forward to sitting down with the players and asking them for their thoughts,” Clark said. “Those considerations are against the backdrop of the unique circumstances by which the season is being played. Our hope is there will be more of a sense of normalcy next year, so we’ll have that discussion, I’m sure.”