If a 2020 MLB season comes to pass, then the game on the field might look unrecognizable to longtime fans of the game at the big league level. Already it seems likely that a universal DH and advertising on jerseys will be in place, and if players and owners reach a negotiated settlement on the structure of the 2020 season then the playoffs would likely expand to 16 teams. Now Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the two sides have discussed the possibility of games ending in ties and changing the format of extra innings.
"The two sides agreed in their proposal this week, obtained by USA TODAY Sports, that they will adopt the minor-league rule in 2020 that every inning after the ninth will start with a runner on second base. In the postseason, games will revert back to traditional rules.
"The union also wants to discuss with MLB the possibility of changing the substitution rules in extra innings, allowing players to re-enter the game among other possibilities."
Should MLB and the players decide to move forward with the season -- and should the COVID-19 pandemic allow it to be played -- then the calendar will be a compressed one, likely with few off days and multiple scheduled doubleheaders. As such, something like a 17-inning night game could seriously complicate matters. These steps would help avoid such a scenario.
As Nightengale notes, though, such changes could be considered beyond the 2020 season, but for now only 2020 is being discussed. MLB won't be flying blind with these measures, as the affiliated minor leagues have started each extra inning with a runner on second base. Per Nightengale, that change has already been agreed to, and perhaps calling regular season games ties after a certain number of innings would provide another layer of "protection" against those five- and six-hour slogs that pop up multiple times per year.
Taking such steps for 2020 is certainly understandable given the schedule constraints, but traditionalists will likely push back if these changes are made permanent.