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MLB Wants Expanded Playoffs and a Few Other Rule Changes to Return in 2021

Some of those odd rules might be making a return.



The drastic rule changes for the 2020 season were something most MLB fans were willing to overlook regardless of what they did to the game. Players, coaches, executives, and fans were so desperate to get the season going that any changes probably could have snuck through. 

In 2020, we had an extra-innings rule that saw a runner being placed on second base. We also had 7-inning doubleheaders, expanded playoffs, and a Designated Hitter in the National League. With the 2021 season about to kick off in a couple of weeks, here’s where MLB stands with the rule changes for the year. 

Extra-Innings

Per USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, the extra-innings rule is something that MLB is hopeful to keep around for 2021. The league is including that in their proposal to the Player’s Union, but there has not been much feedback on how players feel about it. Throughout the 2020 season, it seemed like some guys loved it and some didn’t feel like it sped up the game at all. If it comes down to it, this is probably the rule that both sides would be willing to bend on, and should not be a breaking point for talks. 

7 Inning Double-Headers

The 7-innings doubleheaders actually turned out to be an excellent idea for the 2020 season with teams running out of time due to COVID outbreaks. MLB was able to get more games in less time just to be able to make sure teams got as close to 60 games as possible. That rule carrying over to the 2021 season could once again allow protection from teams facing virus outbreaks within locker rooms, but also just makes doubleheaders less of a headache to manage. 

Expanded Playoffs

Out of all rule changes, this might be the biggest breaking point for MLB. With fan attendance still very much up in the air, the league wants to make sure that it has extra revenue for the 2021 season. Adding in an extra round of playoff baseball would help that. It won’t be the ridiculous 16-team format from 2020, but it might end up being a 14-team postseason. That would create a situation where the #1 seed from both leagues would get a first-round bye. 

Universal Designated Hitter

Another contentious point in the conversations is that of the Universal DH. MLB knows that players and executives around the league would like this rule in place, and they may use that as a bargaining chip in conversations about the expanded playoffs. Expect this one to also be a part of the future moving forward though, as teams will no doubt want to get away from their pitcher’s hitting after a year away from the batter’s box. 

A reminder that all of these rule changes do need to be approved by the Player’s Union before they can pass by MLB. The two sides will continue to have discussions leading up the season, but Spring Training is just a few weeks away. Time is running out if baseball going to start on April 1st as planned. 

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Written by Brook Smith

Brook is the Senior Editor of Dodgers Nation, with several years of experience in sports journalism. He is an avid Dodgers and Lakers fan, and can be spotted fairly often at Dodger Stadium and Staples Center.

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  1. As long as the division winners get a first round bye, and the DH is implemented in the NL, I’m OK with any of these changes, though they don’t thrill me. A lot of Dodger fans don’t recognize how super lucky we were the Brewers [and the Padres] suddenly lost their best two pitchers in the first two rounds of the playoffs last season, or things may have worked out a lot different.

  2. Regarding the 2020 extra-innings rule that saw a runner being placed on second base in extra innings; that is worst rule change ever in the history of MLB. When this Abuse of Reality is in effect, a pitcher can pitch a perfect game, and lose in the 10th inning on 2 ground-outs, still having pitched a Perfect Game, allowing no baserunners. It’s not logical, and it’s not Baseball.

      • So you want to weakens the Dodger lineup and risk injuries to front line pitchers to have them risk injury not having been in batters box in over a year now? Front line pitching is costly and cannot always be replaced. Worse is having a relief pitcher batting because the manager used up his bench by the 7th inning. The league wants to some how infuse more offense and the DH certainly can do it.

    • I loved the rule, like a sudden death ending. It adds more excitement to extra innings, which can seem to go on forever. A lot of the fans leave early already. You can’t keep to game the same only for the old farts. The game has made rule changes many times over the last 120 years. They have raised and lowered the pitchers mound, the game can survive this rule change.

    • Your perfect game scenario calls for an amendment if that rule stays in place. If the starting pitcher is still pitching in the 10th inning, then that rule should not take effect and be suspended until the starting pitcher is removed.

  3. Absolutely terrible! This game barely resembles the game that’s been in place for 140 years! These rules need to all be eliminated and inter league play has got to be the first thing to go!

    • I don’t like the idea then that MLB plays by a separate set of rules for each league, that’s stupid. No other major sports leagues play with different rules within each league or conference.

  4. 1. I’m fine with the extra inning rule for the regular season, but never for the playoffs. Games that go 20 innings do nothing to further the sport and do a lot to hurt it.
    2. Seven inning doubleheaders? I guess I’d prefer nine inning ones for statistical purposes, but it’s not a total deal-breaker for me.
    3. Universal DH? Absolutely. It’s about time! I am so tired of paying good money to see pitchers hit worse than high school players. Also, I’m tired of the AL having an advantage in the World Series because their roster included a professional DH while the NL roster included a pinch hitter pretending to be a DH.
    Expanded playoffs? No way. Baseball is the one sport where anything can happen in the post season. Allowing extra teams in is extremely unfair to those that won their division. If they want extra teams making the playoffs, those teams should have to win 5 out of 7 games in their post-season matchups. If they want a play-in to see which teams become wild-card teams, I would hear that argument, but there should be an absolute advantage to winning your division. The Giants winning World Series after World Series without winning their division is not an “accomplishment”. They had no disadvantage by not winning their division and that was a farce.

  5. Manfred is going to ruin MLB just like Brian France ruined NASCAR.

    IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT!!!

  6. Universal DH? yes. Seven-inning doubleheaders? good for player’s health. Extra runner in extra innings? ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!!!! Expanded rosters to 28 players? GREAT! Adding expansion teams in Charlotte and Honolulu to balance league sizes AND return lost minor league towns? GO FOR IT!!!!!

    • One rule that was not brought up here is that 3 batter minimum the pitchers must face. I was OK with it because it cut down on constant pitching changes after every batter and dragging the game along.

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