Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon hite a two-home run off Padres righthander James...

 Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon hite a two-home run off Padres righthander James Shields in the second inning at Petco Park on May 7, 2016.  Credit: Getty Images/Denis Poroy

Oh, right. The universal DH. Almost forgot.

In recent weeks, we’ve been so obsessed about the economic obstacles to getting a new collective bargaining agreement done that it was easy to overlook the actual on-field changes to the game. One in particular, the balanced schedule, didn’t really appear on the radar until after the deal was done Thursday night.

There are more on the way. The 14-second pitch clock, banning the shift, larger bases. All are penciled in for 2023, upon review by a new rules committee that will consist of six management appointees, four active players and an umpire. Although the Player Association initially was opposed to a robo-ump entering that discussion, the automated balls-strikes mechanism is likely to be on the table, too.

"I love our game," Rob Manfred said Thursday evening shortly after the CBA had been ratified by the owners. "Having said that, since I’ve been commissioner, I’ve talked about the need to make changes in some of our rules to enhance the entertainment value of our product for the benefit of our fans. I think the new agreement opens an opportunity to work with the players to make sure that we make good rule changes."

But first, back to the DH for the National League. It’s a concept I’ve advocated for more than a decade, and the time was long overdue. Not sure what Major League Baseball was waiting for as pitcher ABs continued to look more hapless and the risk of injury seemed to keep growing each year.

Even without the obvious competitive and entertainment advantages for the sport, it was a terrible business practice to have a team’s most expensive and prized commodity doing something that not only is unconnected to that value but jeopardizes it recklessly.

The practice of pitchers hitting had been virtually eliminated everywhere else on the planet for all of those reasons, yet MLB kept forcing them to do it at the sport’s highest level, with the greatest degree of difficulty, for the sake of NL tradition.

Never mind the logic of both leagues playing by the same rules, building rosters, etc. Just be thankful you got that Bartolo Colon homer before MLB came to its senses.

While the DH takes effect immediately this season, along with those new advertising patches and decals you’ll be seeing plastered on uniforms and helmets, the only other marquee on-field event for 2022 is the expanded playoffs, which didn’t turn out to be quite as dramatic as feared.

With the owners pushing for 14 — up from the previous 10 — the players managed to split the difference and end up with a dozen. That breaks down to three division winners and three wild cards in each league, with the top two division champs earning a first-round bye. The best-of-three wild-card series will be hosted by the other division winner and the top wild-card seed.

Dropping the previous do-or-die wild-card format drains away some of the immediate drama, and that single-elimination game was always a TV ratings bonanza. But this change satisfies those who railed against the unfair nature of a one-game playoff for teams who were among the best to navigate the entire 162.

As for the economic tie-in, players were concerned that lowering the bar for the October tournament would prompt clubs to spend just enough to make the cut — trumpeting the "crapshoot" element of the postseason — rather than invest more to significantly increase their World Series odds.

As for the more balanced schedule on tap for 2023, that not only suggests a philosophical shift from a marketing standpoint but could point to seismic changes in the sport down the road. Manfred is acutely aware of the players griping about the lack of promotion by MLB, which lags well behind the efforts by the NBA and NFL, and the balanced schedule — ensuring that each team has a series against the other 29 teams every year — definitely increases the exposure of the game’s stars nationwide.

"It’ll give our fans a greater opportunity to see all of the great players on a more regular basis," Manfred said.

But there could be more to this scheduling wrinkle. Before interleague play was instituted in 1997, the AL and NL maintained their separate identities, meeting only in the World Series. Once that wall was torn down, a year before MLB had its last expansion, the line between the two leagues began to blur, and next year, with the balanced schedule (and continuation of the universal DH), it will have nearly disappeared entirely.

With players and fans becoming more accustomed to the lack of league distinction, two more expansion franchises are likely to follow, along with the possibility of regional realignment, with 32 teams split in half and broken up into four four-team divisions.

The timeline for that is unclear, but there are plenty of sites under consideration — Nashville, Portland, Las Vegas, Montreal — and with Manfred saying last season that MLB expected to pull in more than $2 billion for an expansion fee, that will be happening sooner rather than later.

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