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The Baseball Rules Changes Since Covid

© by Image courtesy of Abode Stock

The 2021 postseason schedule is not yet official. However, the playoffs will once again feature five-team fields in the AL and NL as negotiations for a new agreement regarding expanded play did not reach fruition this year. The league announced that playoff matchups would begin with win-or-go-home wild card matches for all teams without divisional first-place finishes. This season also marks just one of two opportunities to see an interleague game during each World Series round before 2020’s format reverted to traditional National League vs. American League contests after next season.

Despite wanting to get the season started quickly with very few changes in 2019 as COVID-19 still rages on, baseball owners had a wave of new rules that are not permanent. The question is whether or not these will be considered temporary measures while players and fans adjust to the pandemic’s aftermath or if they’ll become part of baseball for future generations?

There are some changes, and some rules are less likely to go away than others. General safety rules like pitchers being allowed a wet rag in lieu of licking their fingers will stay as long it is deemed safe for them to do so. Rules that seem unlikely to be reversed include the five-person taxi squad and umpires staying six feet from each other. Along with some common-sense changes such as players not having metal cleats on artificial turf or needing approval from scouts before hiring family members into an organization.

Here are the four most significant rule changes

Automatic Extra-inning runner on second base

In 2020, teams will place a runner on second base to start every extra inning to speed up game times and minimize time at the ballpark. This rule is expected for 2021 as well.

This rule was one of the worst additions for baseball purists because it actively impacted how the sport looked, even in specific circumstances. This rule only comes into play if teams are tied after nine innings and don’t impact anything beyond strategy. Still, fans who love a good tie game did not think it’s such a bad thing. And even when Betway Insider sat down with former Toronto Blue Jays legend Dave Stieb, who won 140 games in his time, this rule remains a bitter-sweet one.

Universal DH

The universal DH is a rule change that fans have discussed for years. The designated hitter, which was first implemented in the American League almost 50 years ago and allowed pitchers to take their own at-bats during games, changed this year as well with an addition of the universal DH so that pitching doesn’t get taxed too much from carrying all those swings throughout a game.

The MLB and the players’ union have not agreed to continue a universal DH for 2021 yet. Although this could change before the season starts, one reason is that both sides are unwilling to concede their stance on such essential issues in proposals made by each other.

Extended playoffs 

The expanded playoffs have been modified for the 2021 season. For 2020, it was a 16-team bracket but starting in 2021; this is reverting to 12 teams. The negotiations around playoff expansion will be carried out right up until the opening day. They are likely to become an obstacle during labor talks after that time.

Seven-inning doubleheaders

Doubleheaders were already avoided as much as possible, so the rule change to limit doubleheader games was generally uncontroversial. 14 innings in a day leave little room for error, and it’s not often worth playing extra innings if they’re needed. It seems like this will be another one of those rules that last just one year but could quickly return again soon after.