A couple of the more noteworthy rule changes enacted for the shortened 2020 baseball season will be back in 2021.
According to multiple reports, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association have agreed on health-and-safety rules for spring training and the regular season. Among those rules are the shortening of doubleheader games to seven innings apiece and the rule that starts every extra inning with a runner on second base.
The changes received mixed reviews from baseball fans in 2020, particularly the extra-inning rule change, which was a dramatic departure from previous years.
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Certain aspects of these changes from seasons past are undoubtedly in response to the pandemic. Shortening the length of doubleheaders and attempting to shorten the length of games that spin into extra innings reduce the amount of time players are in close proximity to one another at a time when social distancing continues to be encouraged.
But baseball was known to have mulled these changes prior to the pandemic, with both the extra-inning rules, specifically, in effect in the minor leagues in 2019 as part of experimentation to decrease the length of games.
Not part of the reported agreement are the designated hitter's return to the National League or the expanded postseason field. All 30 teams played with the DH a year ago, and the playoff field consisted of 16 teams, eight from each league, up from the typical 10-team field.
According to Yahoo Sports' Hannah Keyser, MLB does not see the DH's presence in the Senior Circuit as falling under the health-and-safety umbrella. Without an agreement between the two sides, pitchers would once again be batting in NL ballparks, and the number of postseason-bound teams would return to 10 for the 2021 season.