It was during the baseball labor wars of 2020 when players first seriously heard the idea of reducing games in doubleheaders to seven innings.
According to sources inside the Players’ Association, this notion -- unlike so many other proposals that spring -- immediately struck many as a terrific one.
Initially conceived as a way to shorten the length of time spent at the workplace during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, seven-inning doubleheaders seemed to players an excellent way to address health and safety concerns totally unrelated to the virus.
To play 18 innings a day is a significant physical grind, especially in a day-night doubleheader, for which players can arrive at the park mid-morning and leave at midnight or later. Fourteen innings is much easier on the body, both for pitchers and position players.
Because of that, making shortened doubleheaders permanent in a post-COVID world is an idea with significant support inside the game.
Sources on both the player and management side see this as a potential win-win, with the caveat that one never knows what will happen with an individual bargaining chip in what is expected to be a tense negotiation over larger issues.
Seven-inning doubleheaders currently exist as a temporary health and safety protocol, implemented in 2020 and renewed in an agreement by the league and Players’ Association for this season.
They would not automatically continue, but would have to be bargained once again. This could happen in the CBA talks that are already ongoing and will intensify later in the year (the current agreement expires on Dec. 1).
Spokespeople for MLB and the union did not respond to questions about their side's position on doubleheaders, but several players and agents expressed a favorable view of making the seven-inning versions permanent.
High-level team management sources did not see an economic argument against that position. Most concession sales stop during extra innings, anyway. And there is a financial incentive to protect expensive players against injury.
Said one team executive, “The seven-inning doubleheader should remain. It is attractive to both sides.”