NEW YORK — Seven-inning doubleheaders and runners on second base to start extra innings will return for a second straight season under an agreement for 2021 health protocols reached Monday between Major League Baseball and the players association.
The deal did not include last year’s experimental rule to extend the designated hitter to the National League or expanded playoffs. After allowing 16 teams in the postseason last year instead of 10, MLB had proposed 14 for this year before withdrawing that plan last month.
Last year’s expanded playoffs agreement did not come together until hours before the season’s first pitch.
There were 78 extra-inning games last year, and the longest by innings were two 13-inning contests at Houston, won by the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 29 and by Oakland on Aug. 7. Every previous season since 1901 had at least one game of 15 innings or longer.
There were 45 games postponed for COVID-19-related reasons and just two were not made up, between St. Louis and Detroit. In order to accomplish that, there were 56 doubleheaders, the most since 76 in 1984. About 12% of games were part of doubleheaders, the highest percentage since 13.6 in 1978.
The agreement includes more sophisticated contact tracing for COVID-19 that includes the use of technology, and more league rules on behavior to comply with novel coronavirus protocols.
Spring training opens Feb. 17 and the season starts April 1. The union last week rejected MLB’s proposal to delay spring training and Opening Day until April 28, a plan that would have led to a compressed schedule of 154 games per team instead of the usual 162.
Last season’s start was delayed from March 26 to July 23 because of the pandemic, and each team’s schedule was cut to 60 games.