MLB Rule Changes
(Seth Wenig/AP)

Rob Manfred is bad for baseball and needs to go. More on that later, but the MLB is finally back for 2020! The shorter 60-game season allows for experimentation with new rules that may or may not be kept for future seasons. Here, I’ll take a look at the major MLB rule changes for 2020, as well as my opinion on whether it’s a Buy or a Sell.

Rule Change: National League uses Designated Hitter

Verdict: Buy, buy, buy, and buy some more

This should have happened years ago, and anyone who says they would rather have a pitcher hit .100 over a season than have an offensive specialist in the lineup is lame. Let the pitchers focus on pitching. Of all the rule changes for 2020, this one makes the most sense. Why do the leagues even have this difference in the first place? As the Section 10 Podcast guys said this past week, imagine if Western Conference basketball just didn’t have a three-point line. The universal DH is a no-brainer.

Of all the 2020 MLB rule changes, this one is the most important. It will have two major implications if it is kept for future seasons, both of which are benefits. For one, the World Series will be much less irritating in that the DH rule won’t flip back and forth every time the home stadium changes. The way it currently stands, the American League champion has to forfeit their DH for half the World Series, which is such a waste. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d rather see J.D. Martinez hit in the World Series than Chris Sale.

The second major implication from this rule change is that designated hitters have more of a historical precedent for Hall of Fame induction. The David Ortiz’s, Chili Davis’, and Edgar Martinez’s of the world have a much easier path to Cooperstown once everyone implements the DH. Martinez finally got into the Hall in 2019, and one of the big knocks against him for a while was that he never played in the field. With a universal DH, this stigma will start to vanish.

Rule Change: Three-Batter Minimum for Relief Pitchers

Verdict: Hard Sell

This rule change is a Rob Manfred brainchild, and like most Rob Manfred ideas, is unbelievably stupid. The Three-Batter Minimum rule requires every relief pitcher that enters the game to face at least three batters before they can be taken out of the game. Exceptions are made in cases of illness, injury, or the end of an inning.

I hate this MLB rule change. It’s such an awful idea. Does Manfred not watch baseball? Pitching changes are a major strategic element of the game. Maybe the manager wants to put in a left-hander to face a lefty, or put his closer in early to shut down a big inning. Now there’s a giant string attached. The intent of this rule change is to limit pitching changes and thus decrease the time it takes to finish the game. By how much? Two minutes? Sure, let’s just eliminate an important element of the game of baseball to save a couple minutes of game time. Unbelievable.

Rule Change: Each Extra Inning Starts with Runner on Second Base

Verdict: Sell, but it’s not as bad as the last one

Unlike the prior two MLB rule changes, this one has equally valid reasons to buy or sell. Ultimately, I’m going to sell this one. Because I took a principled stance on the Three-Batter Minimum Rule, I have to view this rule in a similar way. At the end of the day, it’s another unnecessary change to the game of baseball and how it’s been played for the last 150+ years.

Again, the reason cited for this new rule is to save time. It’s also meant to make extra innings more exciting. I think this is another example of Manfred being out of touch with what fans actually want. Personally, I love extra-inning marathons. One of my fondest baseball-watching memories was watching Game 3 of the 2018 World Series. The Dodgers beat the Red Sox in 18 innings and I was up until past 3 AM. It was awesome, and my favorite team didn’t even win the game.

I’m also not sure why Manfred is so hell-bent on making the games shorter. In most given years over the last decade, MLB games are actually shorter on average than NFL games by almost ten minutes. Of all the major sports, the NFL has the shortest percentage of broadcast time devoted to actual gameplay, per a FiveThirtyEight report. I don’t see NFL fans complaining about the length of their games. Maybe Manfred should just suck it up and leave well enough alone. Although this rule change could make games more exciting, it’s not worth making major structural changes to America’s Pastime.

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