After a tumultuous journey, we will finally hear Major League Baseball umpires shout out “play ball” again across the country. An agreement was finally reached between the owners and the players union Tuesday night.
Yes, the two sides agreed on prorated salaries for a shortened season and to COVID-conscious health and safety protocols.
Spring training will officially begin on July 1, with the intention of holding Opening Day on July 24 and running a 60-game regular season. Of course, a change in pandemic numbers could ruin the whole operation.
Here are some of the changes we will see during the shortened campaign. All were made in an effort to protect the players.
As expected, the universal designated hitter will be used to protect pitchers. And as a method of managing the length of games and limiting participants’ exposure to one another, the minor league rule of starting extra innings with a runner on second base will be utilized, although not for the postseason. The three-batter minimum for pitchers, which MLB instituted before the shutdown, will stick.
And guess what? In the interest of halting the spread of germs, pitchers can bring a wet rag to the mound as a healthier alternative to licking their fingers.
A bunch of other regulations will go into effect, from roster management (they’ll start at 30 and whittle down to 26, with designated taxi squads) to an Aug. 31 trade deadline to the schedule. The usual six divisions will exist with regional travel only.
One big change I think we will see is that pitchers will rarely pitch over five innings. The game is already headed that way and a short preseason will only lead teams to limit their starting pitching in terms of innings pitched. This will make relief pitching a valuable commodity.
Naysayers within the media are already making statements that the World Series Champion will have an asterisk next to it since the champions did not emerge from a full season. I do not see it that way at all.
Every single franchise is facing the same obstacles. One team, the best team, will emerge. The champs will have won every single playoff series they took part in, just like last year.
When the major league season begins, the teams with the best players will still have an advantage over 60 games and playoff series. But shorter will definitely mean more volatile results. How often have we seen what ended up being mediocre or average teams start out fast before fading? It happens every season.
When it happens this year, the hot start will likely lead to a playoff berth. The purist within me believes a team such as this will be exposed in playoff action against quality competition.