Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred says he’s hoping two significant changes brought on by the league’s pandemic-shortened season will continue in 2021 and beyond.
Speaking to the Associated Press before Game 1 of the World Series, Manfred revealed that he prefers some version of the larger postseason format — MLB expanded the playoffs from 10 to 16 teams for 2020 — and also favors the new extra-inning rule that places a runner on second base to start each inning. More importantly, Manfred also says the changes have gained support from around the league after initially being met with resistance
“People were wildly unenthusiastic about the changes. And then when they saw them in action, they were much more positive,” Manfred said Tuesday.
Rob Manfred favors expanded postseason
MLB’s expanded postseason format has been the source of much debate.
From a pure baseball perspective, there’s a concern that going to 16 teams really watered down the regular season and opened the door for an undeserving champion. The Houston Astros nearly reaching the World Series after finishing 29-31 and on the heels of their sign-scandal being more than enough ammunition to argue against 16 teams.
From a business perspective, more meaningful games means more revenue — whether it be through television contracts and eventually fans buying tickets to be in the ballpark — and that is certainly appealing to owners.
According to Manfred, there might be a compromise that makes everyone happy.
“I don’t think we would do 16 like we did this year. I think we do have to be cognizant of making sure that we preserve the importance of our regular season. But I think something beyond the 10 that we were at would be a good change.”
In the same interview, Manfred noted that MLB’s 30 teams combined for $3 billion in operating losses due the coronavirus pandemic. Owners will be looking to make up that lost revenue sooner than later, meaning we should expect 12- or 14-team proposals to be in play during the offseason.
Rob Manfred favors extra-inning rule
Another rule change that was hotly debated centered around starting each extra inning with a runner on second base. At least publicly, players — and especially pitchers — have said the rule feels too gimmicky. However, Manfred is getting a different vibe.
“I think the players like it,” Manfred said. “I think it’s really good from a safety and health perspective that keeps us from putting players in situations where they’re out there too long or in positions they’re not used to playing.”
The long-term benefit does seem clear, though it will be difficult selling this to fans who appreciate the attrition and the unpredictability brought on by 18-inning games.
MLBPA president Tony Clark responds
It’s one thing for Manfred to like an idea. It’s another thing to turn that idea into a proposal that is accepted by the players union. According to MLBPA president Tony Clark, he considers these one-year changes until the proper discussions can take place.
“We made a number of one-year changes this season under unique circumstances,” Clark wrote in an email to the AP. “We are gathering feedback from players and we’ll bring that to the league at the appropriate time. Obviously, protecting health and safety will remain among several important considerations as those talks unfold.”
As contentious as talks between MLB and the MLBPA got during the summer, it’s difficult to imagine a quick resolution on any matter. With the collective bargaining agreement due to expire following the 2021 season, it’s likely next season will be a return to the norm before the entire landscape of baseball potentially changes going into 2022.
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