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MLB and MLBPA agree new "Ohtani rule"

Several new rules have been agreed for the 2022 season, among them one that stands out as particularly favoring the American League MVP, Shohei Ohtani

Mar 21, 2022; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Los Angeles Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani celebrates with teammates in the dugout against the Kansas City Royals during spring training at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. RebilasUSA TODAY Sports

After months of contentious negotiations, the MLB has agreed to a new rule that was taylor-made for Shohei Ohtani. Although not specifically aimed at Shotime, this is a rule that clearly has him in mind.

The rule will allow a pitcher who is also hitting to remain in the lineup in the designated hitter spot even after being relieved of pitching duties. The old rule states that if a team decides to let a pitcher bat, then it is assumed that they had elected to forego the designated hitter. Any subsequent relief pitchers would have to take their spot in the lineup.

Up until now, the Angels would have to perform some fielding acrobatics, dropping an outfielder and shifting Ohtani to that position in order to keep his bat alive. With a .257 hitter, the Angels definitely need the AL’s 2021 MVP at the plate. His 46 home runs, 100 RBI and 26 stolen bases were just too productive to ignore. On the mound, he posted a 9 and 2 record with a 3.18 ERA, notching up 156 strikeouts in 23 starts.

With the universal designated hitter arriving this year, it seems that the owners were much more amenable to addressing this issue. This is a peculiarity to modern big-league baseball. Babe Ruth was, famously, a pitcher with the Red Sox before shifting to a pure hitter in New York. And if you look at lower leagues, from T-ball all the way up to high school, the best hitter is very often the top pitcher. But as pitching prospects get older and progress in their career, batting is dropped and they are encouraged to specialize. Perhaps Shohei Ohtani’s example will encourage more young players to continue to develop both sides of their game and play as dual threats.

In other rule tweaks, the players and owners agreed to expanded rosters from 26 players to 28 through May 1 to compensate for the shortened training this spring.

For the 2022 season alone, we will see the return of “ghost” base runners in extra-inning games, although that will be scrapped at the end of the season. And not a moment too soon either.

And nine-inning double-headers are back on the books. The owners need to vote on the proposed rule changes next week and a simple majority of the league’s 30 owners is all that is required to pass the amendments.


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