MLB's COVID-related 2020 rule changes are set to "return to the status quo, absent an agreement with the players association" this offseason, according to commissioner Rob Manfred.
That means as of today, the designated hitter will not be in the National League in 2021, there will not be 16 playoff teams and extra innings will not begin with a runner on second base.
But all of that could change with an agreement this winter between the players and owners.
The players are said to favor the universal DH and why wouldn't they? It opens up 15 more regular jobs for hitters and more demand should equal more money.
The DH was helpful to several teams this summer, Phillies included. It gave them a spot to play Jay Bruce when he was healthy and it also allowed them to get players like Andrew McCutchen, J.T. Realmuto and Bryce Harper off of their feet.
Plenty of NL teams benefitted. The DH allowed the Mets to play both Pete Alonso and Dom Smith every day without having to start Smith much in the outfield. Marcell Ozuna, a legit MVP candidate this year who hit .338 while leading the NL in homers and RBI, played two-thirds of his games as the Braves' DH. It was where the Reds routinely started Jesse Winker, who had a big offensive year.
It is unlikely that the National League will go back to pitchers hitting in 2021. The universal DH was an inevitability before COVID and the pandemic just hastened the process to reduce injury risk for pitchers.
According to ESPN's Jeff Passan, the owners are interested in a trade-off that keeps the DH universal in exchange for an expanded postseason field in 2021. As of now, the playoff field is set to shrink from 16 back to 10. Manfred wants to keep the expanded field, though the number probably won't be 16. A more realistic number is 14, which the NFL went to this season. It's hard to argue against it given the infusion of money created by extra playoff games and series.
"Some executives believe the universal DH will stick around, even if the MLBPA doesn't agree to the expanded playoffs. What MLB would trade it for is unclear," Passan wrote Wednesday.
Much needs to be worked out this winter between Manfred and players' union head Tony Clark. One rule that is here to stay either way is the rule that requires pitchers to face at least three batters or end an inning before exiting.
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