Buckle up. Major League Baseball returns this summer to a ballpark near you
Finally. After months of bickering between billionaire owners and the millionaire players, baseball is back. Baseball, like almost every sport in this country, was halted in its tracks earlier this year by the Coronavirus pandemic. Now America’s pastime hopes to play a meaningful role in getting America back on its feet.
Baseball in 2020 might look a little different. Maybe a lot different in fact. The season is much shorter (just 60 games per team compared to 162 games in 2019), there are new rules (like the introduction of the Universal Designated Hitter) and of course a plethora of Health-and-Safety protocols designed to keep the players, coaches and other staff members as safe as possible.
Let’s get right to it — here’s everything (well maybe not everything but you get the point) that you need to know about the upcoming season:
When does the season start?
Major League Baseball has stated that the season will start on July 23 or July 24 and conclude on September 27.
How many games will each team play?
As mentioned earlier, the season has been truncated from 162 games to 60 games due to the impact of the pandemic. It’s expected that every team will play ten games against each of the other four teams in its division. The other 20 games will be distributed among interleague contests (The NL East vs. AL East, NL Central vs. AL Central and NL West vs. NL West).
Where will the games be played?
Each club is expected to play in their home ballpark although games can be moved to other sites in the event of an outbreak in a team’s home city.
WIll fans be allowed to attend games?
I don’t think we’ve received an official answer on this one yet and while this may vary from team-to-team, it appears unlikely that fans will be able to attend Major League Baseball games at the start of the regular season.
Will there be a Spring Training?
Yes. Players are expected to report to their home cities for the restart of Spring Training by July 1. Players will undergo various levels of screenings and protocols before being allowed to participate in on-field/team activities.
What about the postseason?
Upon the completion of the regular season, Major League Baseball will conduct a normal postseason with ten teams (six division winners plus two Wild Cards in both the National League and the American League) vying for a chance to capture the 2020 World Series title.
How many wins will take to make the playoffs.
I’d guess at least 33 wins, as no team made the post-season last year with a winning percentage lower than .549. A record of 33–27 this season equates to a .550 winning percentage.
What are the new rules?
- Extra Innings: Much to the chagrin of baseball purists, all extra innings will begin with a runner on second base for each team. Theoretically, this rule will limit the number of games that go beyond a10th or 11th inning and help alleviate some health-and-safety concerns about games being too long. This rule will not apply to playoff games.
- Universal DH: For the first time in Major League Baseball history, all clubs will use a designated hitter for the 2020 season.
Are these rules permanent?
No. They’re a result or the pandemic or currently only applicable for the 2020 season.
How many players are on each team’s roster?
Teams will each be allowed to have 30 players on their big league rosters for the first two weeks of the season. Roster sizes will then shrink to 28 players for the next two weeks of the season before ultimately settling at 26 players. Additionally, there won’t be expanded rosters in September. Teams will also have a pool of additional players on a taxi squad that will train off-site in the event of a necessary transaction (due to injury, COVID-19 or just general ineffectiveness).
What about the trade deadline?
The trade deadline will move from July 31 to August 31. Players must be on a club’s roster by September 15 in order to be eligible for postseason play.
What if someone tests positive for COVID-19?
Good question. There will be a COVID-19 “injured” list, although there won’t be a minimum or maximum amount of time that players can be placed on that list. Any player who tests positive will not be allowed to return to the active roster until he tests negative twice.
What’s the deal with these health and safety protocols?
There are a lot of them and they may or may not be practical or enforceable. For example, players can’t have any celebratory contact (like high fives or fist bumps) and spitting is prohibited. Additionally, social distancing will be encouraged both on and off the field.
What if a player doesn’t want to play because of the health risk?
Players deemed “high risk” don’t have to participate and will still be paid for the season. However, players that aren’t deemed high risk will not be paid if they elect to sit out this year.
Will there be an All-Star Game?
The fate of this year’s All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium has yet to be officially determined but it appears highly unlikely to be played at this point.
Who are the World Series favorites?
Bookmakers list the Dodgers (+300) and the Yankees (+375) as the odds-on favorites to win the World Series. Other favorites include the Astros (+1000) and the defending World Series champion Nationals (+1200).
Is a 60-game season legitimate?
That’s open to discussion. Regardless, I’m just happy that baseball is back. ■
If you liked this story, you’ll like my podcast The Journey with Jon Schaeffer, too.