When the 2022 season finally opens Thursday, baseball will look a lot different than when last season ended. Some of those changes were already set to be implemented, but the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing labor dispute between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association led to many others. Here’s a look at just some of the ways the sport has been altered since we last saw it:
What it used to be: Rosters were set to expand from 25 to 26 this season before the COVID pandemic shut down the sport.
What it will be: Due to the three-month hiatus and abbreviated spring training 2.0, teams will be allowed to carry 30 players on their active roster for the first two weeks of the season and 28 for the next two weeks, before rosters are reduced to 26 for the rest of the year. Each team will be permitted a three-player taxi squad for all road trips to avoid commercial flights. The rest of the 60-man player pool will be at a team’s alternate training site.
What it used to be: Since the American League implemented the DH rule in 1973, it has only been used in AL parks during the regular season and playoffs.
What it will be: National League games will include the use of the designated hitter for the first time. For now, the rule is only set to be in place in 2022, but it could return under a new collective bargaining agreement in 2022.If you’re looking for NLDS dates and tickets, keep an eye out for them.
What it used to be: In a normal 162-game season, teams would play opponents in their own division 19 times, six games against four opponents and seven games against six opponents in the other divisions within their league, as well as 20 interleague games.
What it will be: The schedule will be regionally based, with teams playing 40 games within the division and 20 interleague games against the corresponding geographical division, leading to an even more unbalanced schedule. For example, the Yankees will face the Red Sox 10 times, but seven of those games will be in The Bronx.
What it used to be: Teams were going to have to put pitchers on the 15-day IL this season, while position players would use the 10-day IL and there would still be a 60-day IL, as well as a 7-day IL for concussions.
What it will be: There will be no 15-day IL; all players will be subject to the 10-day IL. The 60-day IL will instead be a 45-day IL and there will be a separate COVID-19 IL for players who test positive for coronavirus or show symptoms.
What it used to be: MLB attendance has been slipping, averaging a little more than 28,000 last season, the fifth straight year it dropped.
What it will be: Some states are considering allowing a fraction of stadium capacity for games, but for the most part — at least to start the season — there will be no fans in attendance. The Mets are selling cardboard cutouts of fans to be placed at Citi Field for $86 each.
What it used to be: Players were paid in full over a 162-game regular season. Gerrit Cole, for example, was set to make $36 million this year.
What it will be: This was a huge sticking point between MLB and the union during their prolonged standoff following the COVID shutdown, as owners wanted to pay a portion of players’ per-game salaries due to reduced revenue. The union refused and players will get their full salaries prorated for the 60-game schedule.
What it used to be: Organizations typically had between seven and 10 affiliates, from the Dominican Summer League to the Gulf Coast League and from Single-A to Triple-A.
What it will be: Official word came down July 1 that the entire minor league season had been canceled. Players not on teams’ 40-man rosters were eligible for the 60-player pool, so some minor leaguers will train at organizations’ alternate training sites. MLB is also cutting 40 minor league affiliates for next season, as well.
What it used to be: Teams would continue playing by the same rules until someone won. Last season, the Mets went 18 innings against the Brewers in Milwaukee on May 4, losing 4-3.
What it will be: To avoid lengthy games, teams will begin each extra inning with a runner on second base. The runner placed on second base at the start of each half-inning will be the player (or a substitute for that player) in the batting order immediately preceding that half-inning’s leadoff hitter.
What it used to be: A pitcher was not required to record an out or face a certain number of batters in an appearance, which led to the rise of specialist relievers and multiple pitching changes in an inning.
What it will be: In an effort to speed up the game, this rule was set to be put in place in 2022 prior to the shutdown. It requires any pitcher to face a minimum of three batters unless he finishes an inning or is injured. Many in the game question whether this will result in the desired effect.
What it used to be: The introduction of replay has cut down on manager-umpire arguments and there are fewer bench-clearing brawls than there used to be, but they remained at least a part of the game. Just ask Aaron Boone.
What it will be: The league is enforcing rules against unnecessary physical contact, which means players and managers are prohibited from leaving their positions to argue or come within 6 feet of an umpire. The same rule is in play for altercations between players. If a player or manager violates any of these rules, he would be subject to immediate ejections, fines and suspensions.
What used to be: Clearly, hygiene was never a top priority in baseball.
What it will be: Spitting is forbidden, including saliva, sunflower seeds and tobacco (though tobacco was previously banned, it wasn’t always enforced). That goes for the field and in the dugout. Additionally, pitchers won’t be able to lick their fingers and will instead have to use a wet rag they bring to the mound. Managers and coaches will have to wear masks in the dugout, and social distancing will have to be maintained.
What it used to be: Players could be traded without going through waivers until July 31. MLB had already eliminated the waiver trade period last year.
What it will be: The deadline has been pushed back to Aug. 31, and only players in the 60-man pool are eligible to be dealt, meaning there won’t be many minor leaguers traded. The lack of minor league games will also make it hard to evaluate prospects.
Source: Newzandar News
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