It’s officially summer time in 2020. Yet, it doesn’t quite feel like it...
In some parts of the country, restaurants, parks and beaches have slowly, but surely reopened. After a brief two to three weeks of what felt like the beginning of the end of the shelter-in-place orders however, we’ve seen a major rise in the amount of COVID-19 cases and as a result, several places have put the reopening process on pause.
Some men and women have been able to return to their workplaces - but lack daycare for their children. Others are still unemployed and uncertain how much longer they will be able to sustain their living situations.
Up until this point, the instructions have been clear. Stay at home. Keep your distance. Wash your hands. Wear a mask while running necessary errands. But now, it’s as if we’ve entered into a “grey area” phase of the pandemic way of life.
While there is still so much uncertainty, heartache and tough terrain ahead, the baseball and softball communities have been given some good news. We’ve all been waiting for the word of whether the 2020 baseball season will happen and it has finally arrived to spread some light during this dark time...
The 2020 baseball season is set to return July 23rd or 24th! After a long process of negotiations, it is “game on!” for MLB 2020. We’re thrilled to be able to enjoy our favorite sport again.
It goes without saying that this season is going to be quite different from past seasons. It will have to follow health and safety protocols that limits travel and allows for social distancing to prevent further spread of the novel coronavirus, protect those playing and working the season, and keep all families of the players safe as well.
We’re here to answer your questions about the upcoming MLB season.
1. What is the timeline?While the schedule in its entirety has not been completely finalized just yet, the season is set to begin July 23rd (or July 24th) and end on September 27th. The postseason will begin September 29th. The World Series will begin October 20th.
2. How many games will the 2020 season consist of?We’ve clearly lost a significant amount of games from the season being postponed. The typical amount of games in an MLB season is 162 games for each of the 30 teams - which equates to 2,430 games in total (not including the postseason) over the course of six months.
However, the proposed plan for the 2020 season only consists of 60 games per team (1800 games total) over the course of 66 days. The structure will be slightly different than usual as well.
3. What will the format of the regional schedule be?While the exact schedule is yet to be made, we do know the structure of the regional schedule. The proposed 60-game schedule will have every team play 40 games against their divisional foes (or 10 a piece). They will also play 20 interleague games against their geographical equivalent. For example - the Nationals will play all of their games against the NL and AL East teams.
The reason for this focus on divisional play is to limit the amount of travel. The majority of the teams are expected to hold their training and camps in the ballparks within their primary home cities.
4. How many players will be on the team roster?A typical active roster only consists of 26 players. However, in the 2020 season, the active roster can have up to 30 players. After two weeks, this number will drop to 28. Then it will drop to 26 after 4 weeks.
Teams were required to submit 60-player rosters for big-league spring training by June 28th. Furthermore, teams are not required to invite all 40 players to camp, but those players must be paid no matter the status of their invitation.
There are a few players that have opted out of the season and there will most likely be more that follow suit in the coming weeks. You can read more about which players have already decided to continue sheltering in place below.
5. What rule changes have been made for this coming season?There have been a few rule changes for this upcoming season. The following is a list of the changes you can expect to see.
- Three Batter Minimum This rule was put in place during the past off-season and will be enforced for the 2020 season as well. It requires pitchers to face at least three batters or pitch to the end of a half-inning (of course with exceptions for injuries or illnesses).
- Universal Designated Hitter (DH) This rule has been on everyone’s radar for a while. There have been many rumors spreading about it coming to the NL and it is finally going to be implemented in 2020.
- Universal DH will allow for another batter to play in place of the pitcher. It will help pitchers remain healthy by eliminating them swinging the bat or running basepaths. It will also allow other players to get more consistent at-bats. This rule will also help managers to temper their starters’ workloads by keeping them off their feet when on the mound.
- Runner On Second in Extras This new rule has been in the works and being tested in the minors. The reason behind implementing this rule is to hasten games and avoid marathon contests that could end up being particularly difficult this year.
- After seeing success at the minor-league level, it is now going to be implemented for the MLB 2020 season. This will prevent 11-inning games, which will help to keep players in better health.
- Position Players Pitching The 2020 season will not enforce any restrictions on position players pitching. Before the postponement of the season, there were negotiations taking place regarding a rule change that would have required MLB teams to designate every player on their active roster as either a pitcher or position player. It would also enforce the forbiddance of position players pitching, unless the game was in extra innings, their team was ahead or behind by more than six runs, or the player qualified for two-way designation.
- Suspended Games If weather causes a game to be cut short before it is deemed official, or before it reaches five innings, it will be continued at a later date as opposed to starting the game over from scratch.
- Zero Tolerance for Fighting In an attempt to enforce social distancing for players, managers, and coaches, they will all be held to a zero-tolerance standard in regards to arguments and bench-clearing fights. Everyone must comply with keeping at least six feet between each person. If any violates this rule, they will be subject to immediate ejection and subsequent discipline, including a possible fine and suspension.
6. What will the playoffs look like?Despite the much shorter season, the format of the playoffs will look the same as it usually does since the two-wild-card system was implemented back in 2012, which will include five playoff teams from each league (three division winners, two Wild Card winners), with the winner of the Wild Card Game in the AL and NL moving forward to a best-of-five Division Series against the top division winner. The League Championship Series and World Series will stay best-of-seven as per usual.
Many are saying that such a short season with a play-in game combined with the possibility of a bracket of mediocre teams is not ideal. There won’t be a lot of competitive integrity with this playoff format.
7. When is the trade deadline for 2020?The trade deadline will be one month later this year, falling on August 31st. This date represents the midway point of the season.
8. What’s this we hear about unsigned players heading to Nashville?This is one of the more surprising parts about the details of this unusual season of baseball that we’ve learned so far. MLB has been in discussion with the city of Nashville about the possibility of hosting two teams of unsigned players, who would be paid by the teams to remain in shape as potential replacement players should the need for them arise this season. The specifics of this idea have not yet been confirmed or revealed.
9. What other precautions will be taken to protect players, managers and MLB staff from the virus?Apart from the additional rules, changes, and social distancing requirement, the MLB has made sure to determine and enforce several other precautions to take this season to prevent the further spread of the virus and keep all who will be involved healthy. The 2020 season proposal includes 100 pages of health and safety protocols.
There will be no high-fives, no spitting, no fist-bumps, no smokeless tobacco, and no chewing of sunflower seeds. The following is a list of just some of the precautions that will be enforced:
- Testing All players, managers, and coaches will be regularly tested - several times per week. Plus they will be temperature checked and symptom screenings twice per day.
- COVID-specific Inactive List There will be a specific list that players will be added to if they test positive for coronavirus. They will be required to sit out for an indefinite amount of time.
- Limited Personnel On Site Only essential personnel will be allowed in the stadiums with 100-150 people broken into safety tiers. Yes, this means you won’t be going to a baseball game any time soon, but at least you’ll be able to watch from home!
- Locker Room Rules The locker room will look a little different with lockers spaced six feet apart. At the club facilities, the use of saunas, steam rooms, hydrotherapy pools, and cryotherapy chambers will be prohibited, while showers will be discouraged.
- Right to Relocate In the event that there is a COVID-19 outbreak in a team’s city (during regular or postseason), MLB reserves the right to relocate the team to a neutral location.
10. Which players have opted out of the 2020 season so far?Several players are coming forward with concerns going into this season and have decided to opt out, understandably so. Baseball is allowing players who are “at risk” to opt out, without losing their prorated season salaries or service time. However, for other players that are not “at risk” that choose to opt out must forfeit their salaries and service time.
For those of you who are wondering if any of your favorites are on in that group, here is a list of the players that you won’t be watching this season:
- Mike Leake, RHP, Diamondbacks Despite not being considered an “at risk” player, Leake has decided to forfeit his salary and opt out of this coming season to put the safety of his family first.
- Ryan Zimmerman, 1B, Nationals Zimmerman has decided to opt-out from this season due to family concerns as well. His baseball future is uncertain at this time.
- Joe Ross, RHP, Nationals Another player for Washington, Ross is opting out of this season.
- Ian Desmond, OF, Rockies Desmond has stated on his instagram page that he is opting out of this season for two reasons: to protect his family during this time and due to the racial injustice that is coming to a head in this country at the moment.
In ConclusionWe understand it has been a long, strenuous year for not just our country, but for the entire world. And unfortunately, there are still challenging times ahead.
While this upcoming season of major league baseball might be a little different than what we are used to, we’re excited to be able to enjoy the game again. We hope that this gives you, your family and fellow baseball and softball fans, a sense of hope during this difficult time. Game on!