Updated: Aug 6, 2020
Author: Harry Alsfine
The challenges brought on by the year 2020 have upended many mainstays of our society. Baseball, America’s national pastime, our country’s most traditionalist sport, is no different.
After months of tense negotiation between Commissioner Rob Manfred and the MLBPA, no deal was reached… but we’re getting a MLB season anyway!
This one is just going to look a little different, and maybe that’s not the worst thing in the world.
Although negotiations, mostly concerning player salary, did not lead to an agreement between the Player’s Association and the league, Manfred used his executive power to institute a 60-game, fan-less season. The season also includes a handful of rule changes to the game itself; I will get to those later, but first let’s talk about 60 games.
The MLB season is a usually a marathon grind of 162 games. 60 games makes it an absolute sprint. Every regular season game’s value goes up almost 3X. The days of “it’s only April/May, don’t worry we’ll turn it around” no longer exist. Any bad start by a team or individual player will be detrimental to their entire season.
And yet, as a fan, I could not be more excited. Some baseball purists will claim this abbreviated season is unsatisfactory, and that the final standings will not truly be indicative of the best team, but I believe these individuals are completely missing the point. The 2020 MLB season is going to be fun! Now, I know when people see “MLB” and “fun” in the same sentence they lose their minds, but any perspective besides “this is going to be really fun” is counterintuitive. In a perfect world, we would be able to play out the full season, but a perfect world simply does not exist in the year 2020. As baseball fans the 60-game season, and the importance of each individual game, needs to be embraced.
In addition to just 60 games, two in-game rule changes that will particularly stimulate the game are the NL implementing a DH, and the extra innings rule.
Since 1973 when the American League adopted a DH, there has been a schism between the two leagues. The National League lineup became more pitcher-friendly and tactically approached. I love the cat-and-mouse of baseball as much as anybody, and having a pitcher in the lineup adds a level of strategy, but with that being said, it is more than time to adopt a DH in the NL. In terms of excitement, getting more matchups between top pitchers and sluggers is infinitely better than seeing a pitcher overwhelmed at the plate. Adding a DH in the NL is going to prolong careers, prevent additional pitcher injury risk, and give us more bombs. It’s a win-win for baseball.
Another fascinating rule change is the extra-inning rule; each extra inning will begin with a runner on second base. The reason for the rule is to prevent marathon extra-inning games in an already condensed season. And, to no one’s surprise, relievers are not happy. Yankees top reliever Adam Ottavino said in response to whether or not he liked the new extra-inning rule, “no, not at all… it’s just not real baseball.” To that I say, Sorry Mr. Ottavino, I hope that disgusting slider of yours can prevent the guy on second from scoring because in 2020 this is “real” baseball. The aesthetic of a runner starting on second is fascinating, and definitely will lead to more of the sexiest play in baseball; the sacrifice bunt.
For a sport that has not come near its peak World Series ratings in the late 80’s—early 90’s, change should be viewed as a positive. 2020 has been unideal in an infinite number of ways; hopefully the changes that the MLB has instituted will give the sport some much needed juice. Either way Opening Day is just around the corner, which means it’s almost time to responsibly drown away my Mets sorrows. Baseball’s back.