By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Barring a massive COVID-19 setback, the MLB will get back to work this week, and begin their 60-game 2020 season on July 23-24. And in a year unlike any other, baseball has released a lengthy list of rule changes fit for only 2020 (for now).
The rules and features are largely health-centered, as the league will get back to work in empty ballparks, and with everybody looking to keep player-to-player contact at an absolute minimum given the nature of the virus that’s currently going through some record-setting waves in certain pockets of the country.
But some of MLB’s tweaks for 2020 could be a preview of long-term changes to the game that are only being experimented with now as a result of a 60-game season being absolutely perfect for zaniness. (Gotta admit: I hope this is indeed the case.)
Here are some of the more important tweaks to the game in 2020…
For the first time ever, National League baseball will go on with a designated hitter instead of pitchers swinging the lumber. As you would expect, 99.9 percent of baseball purists hate this, which makes me think the league is onto something here.
Extra innings will begin with runner in scoring position
The MLB will borrow a rule from minor-league baseball for the 2020 season and begin each half-inning of extra innings with zero outs and a runner on second base. For example: If the No. 2 batter is leading off the inning, the No. 1 batter will begin the inning on second base. Teams will be allowed to put a pinch-runner on second to begin the inning if they so choose. MiLB installed this rule during the 2019 season as part of their pace-of-play tweaks to the game.
Three-hitter minimum for pitchers
This rule, which is new for 2020, will require the starting or any relief pitcher to pitch to a minimum of three batters.
According to the league’s release, that three-batter run will include the batter then at bat (or any substitute batter), until such batters are put out or reach base, or until the offensive team is put out. This is unless the substitute pitcher sustains injury or illness.
Meaning anybody in an inescapable jam should signal to the manager, run off the field without saying a word to anybody, and then go with the Chan Ho Park approach in their postgame.
Even if you’re lying, nobody will question this. There’s some things even terrible umpires like Angel Hernandez don’t want to know. I’m convinced that this would be one of those things.
Position players may pitch regardless of score, situation
The MLB has reversed course on an earlier rule that stated that non-pitcher players would have been allowed to pitch only if a game went to extra innings or if their team was involved in a blowout (losing or winning by at least six runs).
Infielder Eduardo Nunez was the only position player to pitch for the Red Sox in 2019. He surrendered one hit (a home run) in one inning in a blowout loss to the Diamondbacks on Apr. 5. (Honestly, I’m surprised it wasn’t Brock Holt.) Nunez was one of over 50 position players who appeared in a game as a pitcher in 2019.
No pregame lineup card exchange
Who could possibly care about this?
Arguing, fighting, and spitting prohibited
These should also be the rules for every establishment in the world.
But this could also subject the Astros to a nightmare 2020 season at the plate, as they’re outright banned from charging the mound no matter how times they get drilled in the hip as revenge for their multi-year run of cheating. Part of me wonders if that entire league-wide revenge dish is going to be put on hold until 2021.