Photo By: Lesly Juarez from Unsplash

The 2021 MLB season is officially over. The Atlanta Braves won the World Series last week, which now brings the dark, looming cloud that is collective bargaining negotiations right to the forefront. We all knew that this was coming — the current CBA expires on Dec. 1 — but given that the ongoing relationship between the players and the owners is strenuous at best and downright toxic at worst, forgive me if I am rather pessimistic.

There’s always been bad blood between the two sides since Rob Manfred took over as commissioner (and well before that too, it’s not like Bud Selig was a beacon of hope either). The tension has really seemed to escalate in the past two years, starting from when the league wrongfully chose not to punish any of the Houston Astro players who cheated their way to a World Series win in 2017. Then once the pandemic hit a few weeks before the 2020 season was about to begin, the two sides were so incapable of coming to an agreement that all they could muster was a goofy 60-game season with wacky rules and a brutal postseason structure.

Obviously the worst case scenario is a lockout that seeps into the regular season. Jeff Passan of ESPN reported that it’s very likely there will be a lockout but it should — key word ‘should’ — be over before Spring Training. While in theory it shouldn’t even be remotely close to happening, given who the parties negotiating are, nothing’s off limits.

Which brings me to a few points o’ concern I have for what is all but sure to be included in the next CBA (whenever that occurs). I complained about this last year, after MLB announced their 16-team 2020 playoff structure, and I still wholeheartedly agree with the repercussions from expanding the postseason. Now, I doubt they expand to 16 teams, but I’m almost certain the league will expand to 12 teams instead of the current 10. Ugh. To me, the only playoff fix that should be added is to simply make the Wild Card round a best-of-three series rather than a one-and-done.

Remember how incredible the final month, week, day, of the regular season was, when every September game felt like life or death for teams like the Blue Jays, Yankees, Mariners, and Red Sox? You wouldn’t come close to having that kind of down-to-the-wire pennant race if there weren’t only five playoff spots up for grabs. Anyway, I wrote a full article about why expanded playoffs are a bad thing last year (the link above) so I’m not going to rehash that any further.

In terms of what I hope will be improved, the arbitration/service-time manipulation that teams love to do will hopefully become not as blatantly obvious (yeah, Wander Franco needs like, 18 more days in the minors to really keep that front foot down before he’s really ready). A universal DH seems like a no brainer — having to watch pitchers hit is a sin and would open up so many more jobs for aging/older players like Albert Pujols who can still hit but moves like a wounded animal when playing the field. Like, what are we doing here?

Unsurprisingly, the league wants the game sped up from it’s three-plus hour run time, and will probably insist on implementing several tweaks to attempt to do just that. A pitch clock seems like a no-brainer, which I am all for; the absolute killers are the lulls once a pitcher steps off after going through three sets of signs. Now if only they could make batting gloves that don’t require hitters to undo/redo the straps after every pitch… 

Not that this will have an effect on pace of play, but banning the shift would be oh so very lovely. Just say that there has to be two infielders on either side of second at all times. Those two are free to move to wherever they want on that side, so you could still put the second baseman in shallow rightfield if you so desired. It’s just so deflating when the camera pans from a laser-shot right up the middle to a perfectly positioned infielder who doesn’t have to move.

Baseball has never had as much talent — and young talent for that matter — since everyone was juicing in the 90s, and they’re finally seeming to realize that, ‘hey, maybe we should promote our young, fun, charismatic superstars to the rest of the world?’. I’m cautiously optimistic that no regular season games will end up being missed, but I am 100 per cent expecting the league to put in some disheartening playoff structure that will make me groan endlessly. 

Unless something relatively big happens in the next few weeks or months with regards to baseball, I’m probably going to shift to basketball for SIDELINES in the near future. Here’s hoping MLB can get their act together, but until then, it’ll be a whole lot of Scottie Barnes love up in these parts.