Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred believes at least one of the new rules implemented during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season could carry over when things return to normal.
MLB attempted to shorten regular-season games amid health and safety concerns by starting extra innings with a runner on second base. Teams also played seven-inning games during doubleheaders, while the National League adopted the designated hitter for the first time.
"If I had to handicap them, I think I would say that the extra-inning rule probably has the best chance of surviving," Manfred told Jon Heyman and Tony Gwynn Jr. of the "Big Time Baseball" podcast on Tuesday. "I think that most people came to realize that the rule adds a layer of strategy and sort of a focus at the end of the game that could be helpful to us over the long haul, so I give that one the best chance.
"I think the worst chance is probably (the) seven-inning game. I hope we're all back in a world where nine-inning games make sense for us again and that we don't have to make that kind of adjustment."
Minor leagues and some independent leagues, as well as international tournaments like the World Baseball Classic, were already using the automatic runner before MLB adopted it for 2020. MLB is not using the rule during this year's playoffs.
Manfred also discussed the possibility of implementing the universal DH on a full-time basis but hinted there are hurdles to overcome before doing so. MLB would likely need to reach an agreement with the Major League Baseball Players Association before making such a change.
The commissioner also admitted to liking the different styles of baseball each league provides.
"The DH is a tougher issue," Manfred said. "I think my reluctance is this ... If we eliminate the DH in the National League, it is a brand of baseball (that) becomes extinct, right? 'Cause nobody plays without a DH other than the National League. So that does concern me."
MLB implemented most of this year's changes solely to ensure it could complete the season amid the coronavirus pandemic, and many of the modifications were greeted with skepticism across the baseball world. But Manfred believes most skeptics have since been won over.
"One of the interesting things that occurred is people were more positive about those changes when they saw them in action," he said. "And I just think it's an important lesson to learn when we - collectively, those of us in the commissioner's office, the clubs, our fans, the media - it's easy to be opposed to something in the abstract.
"You don't know what it's gonna look like, you don't have any experience with it, so the natural reaction is to say, 'No, we shouldn't do that.' But sometimes, sometimes, if you go ahead and make the change, people see the change and they realize, 'Hey, you know, that's not so bad.'"