Drayer: Mariners broadcasters break down which MLB changes should stay and which should go

Sep 16, 2020, 9:25 AM | Updated: 9:27 am
Mariners Ty France Kyle Lewis...
The Mariners have been able to use the DH all season, even in games in NL parks. (Getty)

With a little bit of extra time on my hands due to the one-day postponement of the Mariners’ series with the Giants, I thought I would share an interesting conversation we had this week with Rick Rizzs, Gary Hill, Mike Blowers and myself on the Roundtable segment of the Mariners pregame show.

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A number of rule changes were made prior to the start of the 2020 season – some permanent, others to help alleviate situations that might arise playing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that we have had some time to live with these rules, we thought it would be a good topic to discuss what we have liked – sometimes to our surprise – and what we wouldn’t mind seeing shelved once baseball returns to normal.

A number of changes have been painless.

“Nobody seems to miss watching pitchers hit,” said Hill, referencing that games played in National League ballparks have featured the designated hitter. “I think the DH should just stay universal.”

The three-batter minimum for relief pitchers has jumped out at me as something that has almost gone unnoticed.

“I think that’s why it’s working,” said Blowers, a former Mariners third baseman. “The Mariners don’t have anybody that Scott (Servais) doesn’t expect to pitch through an inning. The specialty left-hander is gone anyway. You don’t see that guy anymore and I think the expectation for managers is they want guys that can go through an inning regardless of lefty-righty. We’re just not seeing that matchup as much.”

It’s a luxury that teams can no longer afford with the current usage of starters, according to Hill.

“When you had starters going seven, eight, nine innings a game, you could have a couple of guys in a bullpen that could get a batter or two,” he pointed out. “Now that you have guys going five, six (innings)? You don’t have enough of a staff to carry a Tony Fossas type that can go get one lefty. It’s too hard to juggle a staff with innings.”

Rick Rizzs, the longtime voice of the Mariners, likes the universal DH and the 6:10 p.m. start times (as opposed to 7:10). What he doesn’t like are the seven-inning games in doubleheaders.

“It changes the game of baseball. It changes the history because of two less innings in both games,” Rizzs said. “It changes who you use later on in the ballgame. Baseball is a test. Ninety feet home to first base. Baseball is nine innings and it should stay that way because you change the history of the game.”

That is where the group disagreed.

“I love the seven-inning doubleheaders,” said Blowers. “As a player I much rather would have done that. I hope that will continue. I guarantee the players like it, too.”

Hill took it a step further.

“I wouldn’t mind seeing scheduled seven-inning doubleheaders next year,” he said. “I’m sure players would love the trade off. You play 14 innings in one day but you get an off day down the road.”

I am lukewarm to the idea. I think there is a need for more days off and I would take the option of scheduled seven-inning doubleheaders over shortening the baseball season. I do think it is important, however, that every team have the same number of doubleheaders and ultimately innings scheduled. If a doubleheader is necessary because of a postponed game, then I think that those games should be nine-inning games as originally scheduled.

An area of consensus was the runner on second to start extra innings.

“I don’t think I like the runner on second in extra innings,” said Blowers. “I think that seems too gimmicky for me, I think that changes a lot as far as the strategy goes in the game in what you are trying to do. Really to me I think it is something that in a regular season under regular circumstances, that’s not something that they need to do.”

Rizzs concurred.

“I don’t like the runner on at second base,” he said. “I get it, I think it’s good right now for extra innings but I hope we don’t adopt that when we get underway next year.”

Expanded playoffs is another big change this season with 16 teams set to make the postseason this year. News broke Tuesday night in a Washington Post article that Rob Manfred said that expanded playoffs are likely to extend beyond 2020. The group is wary of the change but would like to see it in action before formulating a full opinion.

One thing that was appreciated with the new format by everyone in the conversation: no “one-and-done” games. At a minimum we felt teams should be given three games to try to advance. Beyond that, expanded playoffs in or out remains TBD.

Mostly due to the challenges of playing in a pandemic, this season we have seen more change in the game than any before. It has given us an opportunity to see what true impact change has on this game. It is a balance trying to incorporate new into a game that has been around for well over a century. Some changes this year almost went unnoticed and perhaps that was a surprise. Others felt less comfortable. Hopefully much has been learned and will be taken into consideration as the game moves forward.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Shannon Drayer on Twitter.

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