Baseball is back.
Months of grueling negotiations between Major League Baseball and the Players Association have come to an end. Players will report to training camps by this Friday, July 3. This all comes after player representatives voted on Monday against MLB’s final proposal for a season.
Instead, Commissioner Rob Manfred has mandated a 60-game season which will open around July 24 and conclude in late September. The normal playoff structure will remain the same and last through the month of October. But what other changes this season see?
Features of 2020 Restart
All teams will use a universal DH this season. All extra innings will begin with a runner on second base. Health and safety protocols will prohibit contact between players (high-fives, hugs, etc.). New baseballs will be put in play after multiple players touch them. Fights are prohibited. Players coming within five feet of an umpire will be ejected.
And a host of other changes.
Not all these requirements will be easy to implement. In fact, several would prove difficult for umpires and MLB officials to monitor without painstaking observation. Still, a 2020 MLB season seems primed to start, against all odds. It all comes back to the fact that players, fans, and executives cannot endure 18 months without baseball.
Yet as Jason Hill Jr. wrote earlier this week for TGH, MLB seems to be operating with a ‘baseball-first-and-health-and-safety-later’ approach. Yes, there are protocols for what happens when a player tests positive for COVID-19. A newly created COVID-19 injured list would house the player for as long as needed. Players cannot return from this list until they have tested negative for the virus at least twice. That still doesn’t make the solution foolproof.
Teams will play each of their divisional opponents 10 times during the 60 games. The teams in each club’s divisional twin will also add 20 games to the schedule in interleague play (ex. NL East vs. AL East). Games will still be played in major league ballparks. Teams will still travel to away cities.
That means teams like the Seattle Mariners could end up traveling cross-country to play the Houston Astros. Or the Boston Red Sox could travel to St. Petersburg to play the Tampa Bay Rays. Nevermind that Florida is a current hotspot of COVID-19 cases.
Does a Season Make Sense?
Put simply, MLB is doing everything in its power to make this year seem like “business as usual.” Unfortunately, for fans who have waited months for any announcement of a season, they know this couldn’t be further from the truth.
In describing this atmosphere, it becomes that much harder to rationalize the necessity of these risks. It is difficult to believe anyone will place the same value in a 2020 World Series championship as they did in 2019’s winner. Plus, some players sitting out over health concerns are still likely. All this doesn’t even consider the Toronto Blue Jays, who will have more hurdles to navigate this season than most.
Fans will find out in time whether this slew of changes will produce any sort of meaningful season. But for now, they all hope these changes work out for the better.
MLB writer Anthony Castrovince addresses other questions on the coming season here.
“From Our Haus to Yours”