Rob Manfred held court with reporters during the All-Star festivities this week, and with a new collective bargaining agreement looming in 2022, baseball’s commissioner effectively killed seven-inning doubleheaders and the extra-inning “zombie runner” rule.
These are generally regarded as wholly unpopular rules, so it’s not likely anyone is losing sleep over this, and Manfred explained their demise by saying they were COVID-related changes anyway, as a way to “reduce time spent at the ballpark during the pandemic.”
That makes pretty much zero sense, as do most things that come out of Manfred’s mouth regarding the game. Just admit people hate the rules and say you’re switching back.
But I digress.
While I could go either way on the seven-inning doubleheaders (mostly I like the concept, but I get the revulsion), I’m really going to miss the extra-inning rule, in which a runner begins the inning at second base. Not only does it speed things up, it adds instant drama and pressure, immediately forcing the pitcher into a high-leverage situation and making the game, well… fun.
But since the purity of the game has been called into question on both accounts, those rules are likely going out the window with the new CBA, which may or may not occur after a soul-crushing work stoppage.
At the very least, Manfred indicated that the designated hitter in the NL is essentially a foregone conclusion. One of the most antiquated rules is finally meeting its doom and, in this case, there won’t be any turning back.
Changes to baseball come at a glacial pace, and even once implemented, they are often met with fierce resistance by purists and fans of a more crotchety disposition. But baseball is at least flirting with the idea of trying to improve the game, and hey, that’s something.
Though if Major League Baseball really wanted to speed things up and make a game more exciting, all the league would have to do is actually enforce the time limit between pitches and simply force batters to stay in the box once the at-bat begins.
There. Can I be commissioner now?
Bio: Steve DiMatteo has covered baseball for the Associated Press, MLB.com, and a variety of other publications, and currently hosts the California Penal League Podcast, which can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever else you get your podcasts.