Count Yankees manager Aaron Boone among those who embraced — for the most part — the rules changes instituted for the recently completed 60-game regular season.
Good thing, because as Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred made clear just before the start of this year’s World Series, if it were entirely up to him, many of those changes would be a part of the sport in the future.
"People were wildly unenthusiastic about the changes," Manfred told The Associated Press on Tuesday in Arlington, Texas, the neutral site for this year’s World Series. "And then when they saw them in action, they were much more positive."
Boone, speaking Tuesday on MLB Network Radio, said he was on board with most of the changes. He sounded especially enthusiastic about two of the alterations — placing a man on second base to start extra innings and seven-inning doubleheaders.
"I think in hindsight, I think I really enjoyed the — in the regular season, anyway — the 10th-inning thing," Boone said, echoing comments he made throughout the regular season when asked about the topic. "I think that's something that potentially can continue to stick. I think in this season that the seven-inning doubleheader thing made some sense. And I liked it. I could see that being something moving forward."
While relief pitchers overwhelmingly were against the man-on-second rule — for obvious reasons — those not tasked with pitching in those situations overwhelmingly were for it.
"I think the players like it," Manfred said. "I think it’s really good from a safety and health perspective that keeps us from putting players in situations where they’re out there too long or in positions they’re not used to playing."
Of the 68 games that lasted 10 innings or longer, the longest were two 13-inning games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, suggesting that the change accomplished the goal behind it.
Boone does differ with the commissioner — and he is far from the only one in the sport who feels this way — on two of the other high-profile rules changes: relief pitchers being forced to face a minimum of three batters or to finish the half-inning, and playoff expansion to 16 teams from the usual 10.
"There’s nothing about what happened this year that has changed, not only in my mind, but anybody in the game’s mind about it, and I think that’s here to stay," Manfred said of the three-batter minimum.
Boone’s comments would seem to call into question the "anybody in the game’s mind" part of the commissioner’s remarks.
"I do think there's too many games where there is that need to want this guy [reliever] to come in and face a batter or two and have the next guy up," said Boone, whose club beat Cleveland in the wild-card round before falling to the Rays in five games in the ALDS. "And I don't think that should go away."
What Boone would like to see go away is the 16-team playoff field, instituted this season as a way to pump some additional revenue into a sport in which all 30 teams lost a significant amount of money because fans were not allowed in the ballparks as a result of COVID-19 (a limited number of fans have been allowed in for the World Series).
"I like the idea of, and I’m choosing my words carefully here, an expanded playoff format," said Manfred, who, before the pandemic, had been pushing for an expanded playoff field of 14, according to the AP. "I don’t think we would do 16 like we did this year. I think we do have to be cognizant of making sure that we preserve the importance of our regular season. But I think something beyond the 10 that we were at would be a good change."
Boone, while a fan of the best-of-three wild-card round, which replaced the one-game format for at least this year, isn’t keen on having so many teams in the playoffs after a traditional 162-game season.
"I don’t think you can do that many teams getting in as far as 16 out of 30 teams making the playoffs in a 162-game season," Boone said in early October. "I think it does probably cheapen the season. I think it was necessary this year in the 60-game setting. I think there’s something, too, though, in a smaller-scaled playoff format that the best-of-three makes some sense. I just don’t think we should get too carried away with so many teams being involved moving forward."