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MLB Has Set The 2021 Season Protocols: Here are My Thoughts

By Owen Hetherington

February 10, 2021

***Embed from Getty Images

We’re exactly one week away from baseball returning into our lives. It’s been a cold, long offseason for Yankees fans and there was plenty of times I had my doubts about this upcoming season. The “hot stove” didn’t heat up until the beginning of January. Following that, there are mixed feelings from fans whether or not this team will finally get over the hump in October. Whatever your thoughts are on how this offseason went for the Yankees, baseball is almost back!

I couldn’t be any more excited to have baseball back. For starters, we’re getting a full 162-game season in 2021. I’m so happy we won’t have to watch another 60-game season. Although it made every game exciting to watch, I’m ready to see a full season of Gerrit Cole on the mound (knock on wood).

There’s also the possibility of having fans back in Yankee Stadium this year. Nothing would make me happier and bring me some normalcy like being back in the ballpark. It’s been over a year since I’ve been to a live sporting event. Although it’s nice to watch games from the comfort of my home, I’m hopeful I can get down to the city for a few games this year.

As we could have expected, there will be some changes to the way baseball will be played in 2021. Some of these changes I am in favor of, others I’m not. In this article, I’m going to run through some of the most important changes (or lack thereof) for the 2021 season.

Doubleheaders Will Officially Be Two Seven-Inning Games

I’m sure I’ll get some disagreements in the comments on this one, but I’m excited for seven-inning doubleheaders to return in 2021. Like we saw in 2020, contact tracing and positive tests postponed plenty of games. To compensate for the short timeframe to play in last season, MLB implemented seven inning-double headers to squeeze every game in.

I enjoyed watching two games back-to-back last season. It was more bearable than watching two nine-inning games. It was a change to the game that I wanted to see come back this season and I’m so happy it did.

Offensive Runners Will Start on Second in Extra Innings

This is one I am not a fan of. Although it did help speed up the games in extras, I just don’t like the strategy in extras on the offensive side. If you’re the away team, you need to decide whether or not you want to bunt the runner to third and then try to hit a sacrifice fly to score him. If you don’t get the run-in, it opens up the door for the home team to capitalize with small-ball.

There were a total of 78 games last season that went into extra innings. The longest contests were a pair of 13-inning games. According to ESPN, every baseball season since 1901 has had at least one game go past the 15th inning. If you’re not someone who likes to stay up late, you probably have a big smile on your face with this continuation of the extra innings rule.

Although it did speed up the game, this is not something I want to see continue into the unforeseen future in baseball. I enjoy the nights staying up past midnight and watching the Yankees battle it out into the 13th or 14th inning (or later) in a close game. However, the change does save arms out of the bullpen, which is beneficial to all of baseball.

No Expanded Playoffs

I don’t have too much to say here other than the fact that I would have been pretty upset if they expanded the playoffs in 2021. With a 60-game season last year, it made sense to expand the playoffs because of the small sample size of games. Repeating last year’s playoff format in 2021 would have been a huge mistake and a black eye for the sport. Watching games in the middle of July would be pointless knowing that losses didn’t matter.

Additional Safety Protocols

I’m all for reducing the risk of spreading Covid and implementing extra precautions is a great way to reduce spread between players. Major League Baseball announced a few rules for the upcoming season that include:

Mandatory 5-day at-home quarantine before reporting to Spring Training

10-day isolation for those who test positive for Covid-19

Mandatory quarantine of seven days for those who come in close contact with someone who tests positive for Covid-19. After 5-days, players can return to their teams, should they test negative

Tightening up the protocols for road teams

Continuing face-covering protocols

League-wide code of conduct strictly enforcing what players can do outside of the ballpark

No indoor gatherings of 10 or more

Players cannot attend indoor restaurants, bars, lounges, fitness and wellness centers, entertainment venues (ex: movie theater), gaming venues (ex: casinos), and must follow the guidelines set forth by the government/state

These extra steps should help keep players on the field and reduce the spread of the virus and I’m not sure how anyone could have an issue with them. Additionally, I have read that every MLB team will have a mask enforcement officer, contact tracing officer, and compliance officer that will monitor the team’s activities. Fines will be given out to those who don’t follow the protocols and will all be donated to charity.

No Universal DH

This is where Major League Baseball really missed the mark. You can think what you want, but baseball was the best it’s ever been in the National League with the addition of the DH. It’s a rule that I can’t understand why it wasn’t brought back this season. If you want to grow the game of baseball, letting pitchers hit is not the way to do it.

Pitchers do not care about hitting. It’s a free out for the defense and is a complete waste of time. Pitchers oftentimes just leave their bat on their shoulders and watch three strikes down the middle, just to return to the dugout seconds later.

Giancarlo Stanton is a player that could never play in the NL for the simple fact that he can’t play the outfield anymore. It restricts players where they can play. It’s sad that the MLB swung and missed on this one. I thought that after last season, MLB was finally putting pitchers hitting to rest. Major League Baseball and Rob Manfred continue to miss the mark by not putting rules in place to grow the game and make it more interesting.

Conclusion

Aside from the universal DH, I think Major League Baseball took the right steps for this upcoming season. I’m happy the season is starting on time and we will have a full season of baseball.

We also found out yesterday that Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball will be changing the baseballs again for this upcoming season. I don’t want to go too far into depth on that issue right now because I want to save it for another post. All I will say is if MLB is trying to grow the game and make it more appealing, reducing the distance that the baseball can be hit by altering the baseballs isn’t the way to go about it. Once again, a poor decision by the league.

What protocols are you happy to see back in 2021? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

#MLB

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