Rob Manfred Speaks: The Future of Double Headers, the Extra Inning Rule, the Shift, the DH, the Vegas A’s? More

While I was busy covering the Cubs selections in rounds 11-20 of the 2021 MLB Draft, Commissioner Rob Manfred was quoted on a number of important topics relevant to the future of the game. And those comments, while not particularly substantial, are especially important to track as we drift further away from the pandemic and closer to a new CBA.

Here’s a quick recap of what you missed.

The New CBA:

Nothing would make me happier than to believe Rob Manfred when he says “Our No. 1 priority is to get a new agreement without a work stoppage.” But we’re not going to take that at face value.

Now, there are some reports suggesting that after the shortened 2020 season, neither the league nor the union can literally afford to miss any games next season, and that certainly makes sense. But remember, this is a battle of will and public perception. And fans tend to vilify whoever seems less willing to make a deal, regardless of if that’s actually true or fair to the ongoing negotiations. In other words, Manfred has everything to gain and nothing to lose by saying he wants to get a deal done. But the fact is, the players have some legitimate issues to raise and they need to be negotiated in good faith, not just to get a product back on the field as quickly as possible (even if that IS what we want).

Limiting the Shift:

It looks like the commissioner’s office is not just taking a stand on the shift, they’re actually trying out a semi-novel argument for why:

There have been all sort of proposals on how the league could look to ban or limit the shift, but the easiest one for me has always been what’s laid out above: (1) You must position two fielders on either side of second base and (2) they must start each pitch with their feet on the sand.

Frankly, I’m not really sure why that’s so controversial. And moreover, I don’t know why we think “But you can’t limit a strategy!” is a good argument. Almost every single rule is about limiting strategy for the betterment of the game. That’s kind of the whole point.

I know some of you don’t agree about banning the shift and I do understand and agree that there are actually some potentially counterintuitive and counterproductive effects. But on the whole, I think it’s a good idea that could lead to more base hits/action, which is ultimately what baseball needs.

As for the “restoring baseball” argument, well, that does nothing for me. I don’t care if baseball looks the way it used to, I just want it to be the best version of itself. In this case, that just happens to align with the past.

Old Rules Returning

The seven inning double-headers and extra inning rule (starting a runner on 2B) could soon go the way of the do-do.

I’ve always been pretty iffy on the extra-inning rule, even as others (including Brett) have come around. It is nice to get some immediate action in extras, but it just feels like there’s a better alternative out there. I don’t know what that is, necessarily, but I wouldn’t mind at least starting extra innings as normal baseball (i.e. the 10th inning is just a normal frame with no special rules) before trying something out there after.

Maybe you go 12 full innings and then do the runner (or it’s a tie, or it’s a home run derby, or it’s sack racing, I don’t know). Even though the extra inning rule isn’t as despised now as it was when it was proposed, I don’t suspect Manfred will face much backlash.

Oh, I also hate that the rules in the regular season are different than the playoffs. So, fix that too.

As for the seven-inning double-headers, well, he might actually get some pushback on that one. Although it was earnestly created during the pandemic to fit the games in and preserve the health of the players (in more ways than one), we have since seen some players coming out in support of the shortened double-headers for many of the same reasons. The union could look to make that one of their priorities, and they very well might, but everything you get is one less thing for which you can ask.

Manfred knows all this and could be making a leverage play. There will be a lot of this sort of posturing over the next 7-8 months.

Along these lines, Manfred now believes the universal DH is considered a “non-radical” proposal. I’m pretty sure we’re getting it no matter what.

The Vegas A’s:

I’m so sick of writing about the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays stadium situations, but until they are settled, the league will not continue on with expansion, division improvement, or anything else in that big-picture reference frame, and so we discuss. Again, and again, and again.

The latest via Bob Nightengale:

Vegas was always considered one of the premier potential expansion sites, so I’m sure Manfred would prefer the A’s figure things out in Oakland so that he can bring a new team to Vegas. With that said, his fatigue is not lost on me. That feels like a legitimate threat at this point.

written by

Michael Cerami began covering the Chicago Cubs for Bleacher Nation as a part-time contributor in 2015. One year later, he joined Bleacher Nation full-time, covering the Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball. Today, Michael runs Bleacher Nation, contributing as a writer (Cubs, MLB) and an editor for all sections of the site, including the Chicago Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks, as well as MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL. In 2019, Michael was the co-host of NBC Sports Chicago's Cubs Post-Game Show Outside the Ivy. You can find him on Twitter/X @Michael_Cerami

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