Major League Baseball is more likely to keep the rule allowing teams to place a runner on second base at the start of every extra inning than other 2020 rule changes such as a universal DH and seven-inning doubleheaders, commissioner Rob Manfred said in a podcast published Tuesday.
“If I had to handicap them, I think I would say that the extra inning rule probably has the best chance of surviving,” Manfred said on the Big Time Baseball podcast with Jon Heyman and Tony Gwynn Jr. “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.”
The commissioner also noted that fans were more receptive of the rule change once they saw it in action. Traditionalists opposed the change when it was made, but MLB implemented it as part of a wave of rule changes designed at adding excitement and preserving player health during the sport’s shortened 60-game season held in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Manfred wasn’t bullish on the chances of the other two rule changes sticking around.
“I think the worst chance is probably seven-inning games,” Manfred said. “I hope we’re all back in a world where nine-inning games make sense for us and that we don’t have to make that kind of adjustment. The DH is a tougher issue. I think my reluctance is this…if we eliminate the DH in the National League, a brand of baseball becomes extinct.”
The universal DH is a topic likely to come up in the upcoming CBA talks between MLB and the players union that will decide how the sport will operate beyond 2021. After the two sides carried out an ugly, extended and public spat over how to proceed with a season during the pandemic, neither side will want to give up much ground before negotiations pick up. The union would be more likely to support a universal DH because of how it can used to extend veteran players’ careers.
As for the expanded 16-team playoff format, Manfred doesn’t think that many teams will be playing in October moving forward — though he does expect the field to grow from the current number of 10 teams that qualify for the postseason.
“The 16-team format was an accommodation to the abbreviated season that we knew we were playing in 2020,” Manfred said. “I do think we have had the most selective playoff format of any major professional sport. I think that’s an important thing to our sport. I think it will continue to bear on our thinking. Having said that, I like the idea of a little broader format. Expanded playoffs, whether it’s 12 or 14 that remains to be seen…but I do think 16 is a number that’s larger than what we’re gonna be looking at on a go-forward basis if we get there on expanded playoffs.”