MLB rules update
Less than one month until pitchers and catchers report to spring training and there is still a total lack of clarity regarding what gameplay will look like for the 2021 season.
Via Bob Nightengale of USA Today, MLB is proposing the return of seven-inning doubleheader games and having every extra inning begin with a runner on second base. Both rules were implemented unilaterally by commissioner Rob Manfred for 2020’s abbreviated season but the league would need cooperation from the players’ union to make them stick around.
Earlier this winter, MLB sent a memo to teams advising them to operate as if there will not be a designated hitter in the National League. However, “most baseball executives still believe there will be a universal DH this season,” Nightengale reports. Recent transactions like the Nationals signing Kyle Schwarber and the Mets signing José Martínez seem to reflect that mindset. The hold-up is MLB’s strategy to offer that to the union in exchange for approving a 14-team playoff field (expanded from the typical 10-team format).
By and large, these would be welcome developments for the Marlins. Last season, they Marlins went 10-4 when playing seven-inning doubleheader games compared to a mediocre 21-25 record in their “normal” games. Despite the team’s offensive struggles overall, Miami’s designated hitters outperformed the MLB average. Jesús Aguilar, their most frequently used DH in 2020 and a revered clubhouse presence, would unfortunately become a trade candidate if the senior circuit loses that role for this year. And most of all, the extra postseason berths would give the Fish a puncher’s chance of reaching October again whereas a path there likely doesn’t exist if only five NL clubs make the cut.
No FanFest for 2021
A statement from the Marlins (via MLB.com’s Christina De Nicola):
“We are looking forward to our players returning to the field and having fans back in the ballpark for Marlins games in 2021. In lieu of our traditional FanFest, we are exploring a fan experience to celebrate the start of the season closer to Opening Day—which is just under 11 weeks away. We know our fans are excited to re-unite and enjoy the fun times at Marlins Park.”
This was a necessary decision but it’s still deflating. The 2020 event attracted about 17,000 fans to Marlins Park. Under non-pandemic circumstances, the projected turnout this year should have been similar, possibly even larger.
De Nicola hints at the likelihood of fans being able to attend 2021 home games once “specific safety protocols” are put in place to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 infections. Upstate in St. Petersburg, for example, the Rays are reportedly planning to allow up to 7,000 (socially distanced) fans per game, and they don’t even have a retractable roof like the Marlins do, which can be opened to create safer conditions, according to infectious disease experts.
Christina De Nicola will be our featured guest on the Fish Stripes podcast this week. Please comment with any specific topics you’d like for us to discuss.
Pictured at the top of this article, FOCO has released a new Don Mattingly NL Manager of the Year bobblehead! The winningest manager in Marlins history, Mattingly guided the Fish through a grueling 2020 schedule and optimized his ever-changing roster to earn a postseason berth, the franchise’s first since 2003.
Supplies are limited, yet FOCO is generous enough to provide us with one bobblehead to give away. Follow @fishstripes on Twitter for details.
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