The same thing happens every time MLB floats a new rule. Fans go crazy on Twitter and talk about how the game is being ruined, and reporters look for quotes from players and managers who might be willing to provide more red meat for the detractors.And then ... silence.The grumbling slows, and eventually, the change just becomes part of the season. That was the case with slides at second and collisions at the plate in recent years, and it appears to be happening again.MLB snuck a bunch of massive changes into the 60-game season, and when it was over, the consensus from those in charge seemed to be that, you know what, it was fine. It was fine.MLB hasn't yet announced what the 2021 season will look like -- no rush guys, it's not like spring training is supposed to start in less than two months -- but it's likely some of the changes will stick. Here are five we saw in 2020, and my opinion on whether MLB should keep the new rule or ditch it:
I can tell you exactly when I started to favor this rule, which I hated at first, mostly because Javier Lopez had the game's best walk-up songs and we need another Javier Lopez. It was the last game of the season with the Giants facing a must-win situation against the Padres.
In the seventh inning, Padres manager Jayce Tingler brought Tim Hill, a funky lefty, into the game to protect a two-run lead with a runner on and Mike Yastrzemski and Alex Dickerson coming up. That's a really tough matchup for the lefty hitters, but Yastrzemski drew a walk, allowing Gabe Kapler to call on Donovan Solano to pinch-hit for Dickerson. In the past, the move here would be automatic. Tingler would pull Hill for a right-hander, the game would go to commercial for the second time in like three minutes, and everyone would sit around as the new right-hander warmed up.
But Hill had to face Solano, and the Giants were set up beautifully. Solano ended up striking out swinging, one of the more stunning moments of that final week. Perhaps next time it's a double into the gap that ties the game, all because the opposing team had to keep the pitcher in for three batters. Either way, it was a moment filled with drama, a lot of which would have been sucked away had the Padres made another pitching change.
Hill, by the way, stuck around for the eighth since the Giants had a righty and lefty coming up but trailed by two. He gave up a homer to Wilmer Flores but struck out Brandon Belt before departing. It was a two-inning stretch that was a lot more interesting than it would have been under previous rules.
Text Your Friends is a gimmick that was played out years ago, but I love it and those moments are part of why you keep watching when it's 9-1 in the fourth inning. The relief pitcher at-bat is a thing of beauty, and there's not much that's more entertaining than a dude standing in the corner of the box with someone else's bat trying to decide if he wants to swing or not.
Brad Grems, the clubhouse and equipment manager for the Giants, even gives every reliever his own helmet as soon as he joins the team.
This rule isn't about relievers, of course. It's about adding more offense, giving hitters another high-paid roster spot and preventing injuries. It's also about limiting at-bats for a group that mostly is filled with guys hitting .076, but when the new CBA goes into place with a universal DH, I'll miss the Bumgarners and Greinkes of the world. Bumgarner taking
Kershaw deep twice was phenomenal, and even Kershaw does a pretty good job on the other end.
He really battles at the plate and runs the bases hard, and the go-ahead homer he hit on opening day a few years ago was really memorable.
Years ago, with the Giants and some team I have forgotten spinning towards 16 or 17 innings, I tweeted that someone needed to bring food to the press box. The great Dave Flemming sent a box of sliders down a few minutes later.
Those marathons are unforgettable in a way, and by the end of the night, it feels like there's a very small group of diehards at the park and on Twitter alternately wishing they could go to sleep but also having a blast. On many occasions I've walked out of the park at 3 a.m., exhausted but also laughing over the absurdity of the game I just covered.
But those nights can wipe out a team, and they can also be hell for all the behind-the-scenes staffers who don't make millions and might not get an hour of sleep as they try to prepare for the next day's game. They chew up a bullpen and force roster moves that are unfair to players, and putting a runner on second added an element of intensity right away.
But I would make a change. Maybe you wait until the 11th to put the runner on second, maybe you just put a runner on first in the 10th and then put the guy on second in all subsequent innings. MLB needs to make sure a hard-fought game doesn't end in the 10th because a guy was put on second and scored on a grounder to the right side and deep fly ball. I'll miss the 16th inning, but players won't. The runner-on-second rule was a lot more exciting than I anticipated, but a tweak would make it better.
This was the new rule that MLB managers seemed most opposed to. Teams get an extra player for doubleheaders anyway and they can plan for those 18 innings in advance, so they're not as desperate for pitching as they might be when a Tuesday game somehow goes until midnight.
This is where the purists need to win out. An MLB game lasts nine innings, and cutting two innings out doesn't provide much help for rosters and simply makes those games feel different.
The seven-inning games were just weird. They felt really short and gimmicky and that final inning always caught you by surprise. You're fundamentally changing the game without much benefit, and this is one change that hopefully won't be seen again once the calendar turns from 2020.
Opposing this is a losing battle. Expanding the postseason means more postseason TV money, which means more money for the owners, and more money for the players, and once you start down that road you're not turning back.
But part of the beauty of covering baseball is that I never write the words "load management." The regular season really, really matters, and while occasionally stars will find an extra rest day, you're not going to see the Dodgers sit Mookie Betts three times a week to keep his legs fresh for October.
The regular season is a grind, but by September we usually have pretty good races and in October you're generally left with the best of the best, not an 82-80 club that's hoping to get hot in a three- or five-game series.
Those in favor will say expanding will keep a bunch of organizations engaged longer, but it will also mean front offices -- already cutting back on spending -- will know they can go cheap in the offseason and build an average team that might still be in contention. That's bad for players and it's bad for fans.