MLB hasn’t endured the smoothest start—Miami’s COVID outbreak sent the league into a momentary panic (four days into the season, no less) while the Blue Jays’ continued exile from Canada and subsequent relocation to Buffalo has led to scheduling mayhem across the sport. But MLBPA director Tony Clark, ever the problem-solver, has a “eureka!” idea that could stop the bleeding—seven-inning doubleheaders.
The longtime union head suggested the tweak in a phone call to deputy commissioner Dan Halem earlier this week and, apparently, it’s already gaining traction. The Players Association followed up by distributing a league-wide survey, polling players on their doubleheader preferences. Along with Clark’s plan for implementing seven-inning double-dips, the MLBPA has offered another intriguing alternative that could serve as a compromise—playing a normal-length opener followed by a seven-inning nightcap. Per reports, the league is hoping to reach a consensus on the matter by Saturday, which is when the Phillies are slated to return from a six-day layoff with two games on the docket against Toronto.
It’s a little baffling MLB is just considering this now, but amid a frenzied 60-game schedule, trimming the fat off double-headers—a move the minors made years ago—seems like a no-brainer. Not everyone is on board with the proposed change—Yankees reliever and well-documented baseball purist Adam Ottavino worries the switch to seven-inning doubleheaders would further “marginalize” what is already the sport’s weirdest year yet with quirky extra-inning rules and a watered-down, 16-team postseason. Angels manager Joe Maddon didn’t seem opposed to abbreviated double-headers, but noted it would alter his coaching strategy.
"You just get into that ninth inning a lot sooner,” said Maddon in comments made to ESPN and the Associated Press. “The sixth inning, the fifth inning play differently based on when the game is supposed to conclude.” The Halos skipper acknowledged his starters would likely be on a much shorter leash if the league adopts seven-inning doubleheaders.
With the season already derailed by scheduling conflicts, a homeless Toronto Blue Jays team and Miami struggling to fill its roster amid COVID, MLB can’t afford to waste any more bullets. If cutting two innings off twin bills can accomplish that, what’s the league waiting for?