It’s official: baseball has a new doubleheader rule for whatever is left of the 2020 season: games in twin bills will be seven innings long.
That rule, hinted at yesterday, was formally announced by Major League Baseball a few minutes ago. In the release, the league noted the necessity of the rule, saying, “[g]iven the frequency of doubleheaders, the effects of doubleheaders on rosters, and the need to reschedule games due to dynamic circumstances, both the Clubs and the Players have determined that this step promotes player health and safety.”
“Dynamic circumstances” is one heck of a euphemism for “a pandemic which has wreaked havoc on our schedule and has us at its mercy,” but I suppose MLB has PR people on staff whose job it is to soften such things.
The new doubleheader rule reads as follows:
Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in Official Baseball Rule 7.01(a) (“Regulation Games”), a regulation game in both games of a double-header shall consist of seven innings, unless extended because of a tie score. In this respect, the “Extra Innings” rule contained in Section 5.1.2 of the 2020 Operations Manual shall apply to each half-inning following the completion of the seventh inning.
Please note that OBR 7.01(c) shall still apply, such that if a game is called, it is a regulation game (1) if five innings have been completed; (2) if the home team has scored more runs in four or four and a fraction half-innings than the visiting team has scored in five completed half-innings; or (3) if the home team scores one or more runs in its half of the fifth inning to tie the score.
Given recent disruptions in the schedule, some teams are looking at playing a handful of doubleheaders throughout the season to make up for lost time. Reducing the length of doubleheaders to seven innings would put less strain on pitchers and wouldn’t require as much roster preparation. Most importantly, during a pandemic, this would reduce the total amount of time players spend in enclosed areas like clubhouses where COVID-19 is more easily spread.
Hey, it’s 2020. Nothing is normal. Why should doubleheaders be spared?