Baseball purists, rejoice, because two major controversial rule changes could be on their way out. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday he doesn't see seven-inning doubleheaders or the runner-on-second extra-innings rule as things that will continue in the long term.
Both rules were implemented as the league prepared to play through the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. They were introduced as a way to conclude games quickly. With the pandemic altering team schedules, MLB hoped shorter games would mitigate wear and tear on players.
With the MLB schedule getting back to normal, the league can now explore reverting those rules back to where they were pre-pandemic.
Manfred also said the runner-on-second in extra innings rule is also much less likely to become a long-term rule post-pandemic.
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) July 13, 2021
Rob Manfred: “I don’t think seven-inning doubleheaders are going to be part of our future going forward.”
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 13, 2021
Manfred did not guarantee both rules would change, but it sounds like he's open to the idea. With the collective-bargaining agreement ending in December, it's possible Manfred didn't want to say anything definitive in case the issues come up during negotiations between the players and the owners.
MLB's COVID-19 rules met with controversy
The COVID-19 rule changes — seven-inning doubleheaders and the runner-on-second in extras — are controversial among fans. While both rules were aimed at ending games sooner, there's something beautiful and chaotic about a 19-inning game that fans find simultaneously enjoyable and torturous. Since many baseball fans are also masochists, this is fine.
Other issues have cropped up as a result of the rule changes. The runner-on-second rule, in which a runner is placed on second base at the start of every extra inning in an attempt to encourage scoring, has led to unusual strategies from teams. It's also led to some relievers picking up unfortunate blown saves or losses even though they didn't put that runner on base.
The doubleheader rule has produced two situations in 2021 where a team threw a no-hitter that won't be officially recognized by the league. Madison Bumgarner made that happen in April and the Tampa Bay Rays combined to no-hit Cleveland over seven innings in July.
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