Late Wednesday, I wrote here about MLB and the MLB Players Association likely agreeing to have 28-man rosters between Opening Day (April 7) and May 1, 2022.
Per Joel Sherman of the New York Post, that’s now official for this year. Sherman notes that during that 3½-week period, teams can have as many pitchers as they want on their rosters. This is being done to help reduce possible injuries to pitchers, who are having a greatly-abbreviated Spring Training.
Pitcher injuries seemed a bit higher than usual during the shortened pandemic 2020 season after the three-week “Summer Camp” ramp-up. I would expect that during that time, teams will likely carry 15 pitchers, as most starters won’t be stretched out to go longer than five innings. Beginning May 2, when the 26-man roster goes back in effect, teams will be required to have 13 position players and 13 pitchers. The Cubs have 23 games between April 7 and May 1, about 14 percent of the schedule, including 11 home games and 12 away games.
Here are three other rules agreed to, per Sherman’s article.
The “Shohei Ohtani rule”
Ohtani is unique in MLB, a starting pitcher who also serves as a DH most days when he’s not starting, and he’s really good at both.
The new rule stipulates that if the starting pitcher is also hitting in the lineup, then that player remains as the DH even if he is pulled from the start. Thus, if Ohtani, say, pitched five innings, he would still hit through the entire game. This rule is for the life of the new CBA, not just for 2022 and the hope is to promote more two-way players.
I’m not sure that there are tons of guys out there who are prepared to be the sort of player Ohtani is, but the Tampa Bay Rays’ Brendan McKay was going to attempt this before he had shoulder surgery in 2020 and thoracic outlet surgery last year. Reported fully healthy now, he’ll try it again this year.
The ghost runner returns
Also known as the “Manfred man,” there were reports that this rule would be eliminated this year, or perhaps modified to be used only starting in the 12th inning, something I wrote last week I’d be okay with.
Instead, this rule will be used as it was in 2020 and 2021, beginning in the 10th inning. It’s making me hope the number of extra-inning games this year will be very, very small. According to Sherman’s article, this rule will be in place only for 2022. Let’s hope so, and that it’s consigned to the dustbin of history after that.
I concur with this take on the “Manfred man”:
I never believed they were getting rid of the free runner in extra innings, and yet I'm still so disappointed. It's not baseball. It's just not. We've watched two years of this rule and it creates ugly, sloggy, artificial, often unwatchable ball.— Joe Sheehan (@joe_sheehan) March 22, 2022
I like regular-season baseball, and this treats regular-season baseball as an annoying task to be dispensed with. It's perhaps the clearest expression of how little the people who run our game care about April to September.— Joe Sheehan (@joe_sheehan) March 22, 2022
The second of Joe Sheehan’s tweets is the key here. One of the best things about baseball is that it happens every day. For me, it’s defined my spring and summer for as long as I can remember. The pleasant knowledge that even if your team is off on a specific day, you can find some other team’s game to follow, makes baseball what it is, in my view. This rule takes some of that fun away. Beyond that, there’s this:
Maybe the problem isn’t playing a game to its conclusion so much it us managers who routinely use their best relief pitcher for nine pitches and then get mad when that choice backfires. https://t.co/y11v309qps— Joe Sheehan (@joe_sheehan) March 23, 2022
No more seven-inning doubleheader games
I have to admit I kind of liked these. For those of you decrying the lack of strategy in modern baseball, seven-inning games became the source of different types of strategy, as managers didn’t have many innings to come back if their team fell behind early.
Due to games rescheduled from the lockout, the Cubs already have two doubleheaders on the schedule, both against the Cardinals, June 4 and August 23. Since these will be split-admission doubleheaders, fans who feel they paid for a nine-inning game will get one.
Lastly, there’s one other rule change that’s been in effect the last two years that I would like to see continue: A rule that allows games to be suspended at any point, even before “official” after the fifth inning. This, in fact, allowed one 2021 Mets/Marlins game to be suspended in the first inning after just nine pitches (in reality, that game probably should never have been started). I’ve written previously about doing this and why it’s a good idea, citing this 2019 Cubs/Cardinals game as an example. For those who say people wouldn’t get their ticket money’s worth in a situation like that:
Perhaps you’ll say, “Al, in your scenario the original ticket holder doesn’t get to see an official game.” My response to that: Most of the fans at Saturday’s game, which had an announced tickets sold total of 46,297, left before the resumption of the game anyway and so they didn’t see an official game by their own choice. Further, it’s very likely that a significant portion of Saturday’s crowd also attended Sunday’s game, either Cardinals season-ticket holders or Cubs fans who traveled to St. Louis for the weekend. This type of fandom is far different from the way things were decades ago when the “rain check” language was first put on tickets. Most teams had very few season-ticket holders until after World War II and the number of Cubs fans you’d have found in St. Louis (or any other road city, for that matter) for games in that era could probably be counted in the dozens instead of the thousands.
I have sent out an inquiry as to whether the 2020-21 suspended game rule has been made permanent. If/when I get a response I’ll update this article.