A new agreement for the 2021 health protocols for Major League Baseball has been set for the 2021 season. Some things that will return from last season include seven-inning doubleheaders and runners on second base to begin extra innings.
One thing that will make baseball purists happy and DH-lovers cringe is to not extend the designated hitter to the National League. In addition, the 16-team playoff has been scrapped and the ten-team format will return.
Last season there were 78 extra-inning games, with the longest being 13 innings. The new rule for extra innings has decreased the duration of games, so much in fact that every previous season in 120 years had at least one game run 15 innings.
There is a time for MLB to eventually get back to all traditional rules, but during a time when COVID-19 is still an issue, the rule changes are best for now to keep the games running as smoothly as possible. After all, there were 45 games postponed last year due to the pandemic. To make up for the games, there were an extraordinary number of doubleheaders, so making those games as short as possible makes sense. The extra inning rule change helps preserve pitching during a time when teams will be playing more games in a shorter period of time.
Also included in the agreement are more accurate measures for contact tracing for COVID-19 that uses technology. In addition, behavior rules to comply with protocols will be more numerous. Spring training is set to begin on February 17 with the season starting on April 1. That is good news after the league wanted to push the start date to April 28, which the players adamantly opposed.
While baseball still won’t look completely like it did pre-pandemic, the 2021 season clearly looks better at the moment than last year when a 60-game schedule did not start until July 23.