The 2020 baseball season is a go, with Major League Baseball and the players’ union ironing out the health and safety protocols for a campaign shortened by the coronavirus. The league announced that commissioner Rob Manfred implemented a season 60 games in length. Opening Day is set for July 23 or 24, according to the announcement.
It’s the culmination of a months-long back and forth between the two sides, which saw labor relations get ugly and is being predicted to resume surrounding the end of the current collective-bargaining agreement following the 2021 season.
But for now, there is baseball. Players will report to a second round of spring training over the next week to be tested for COVID-19 and then to get ready for the shortened regular season, which will reportedly begin at the end of July.
According to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, the schedule will feature 40 games against division opponents and 20 against teams from the corresponding geographic division in the other league. For example, the White Sox would play 10 games each against the Twins, Indians, Royals and Tigers. According to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, geographic Interleague rivals such as the White Sox and Cubs will still play each other six times. That leaves 14 games total for the White Sox against the Cardinals, Brewers, Reds and Pirates.
We are still awaiting word on what specifically was agreed to in the health and safety protocols and all the rule changes that will be implemented for a season that promises to be unlike any other in the game’s history, what with only 37 percent of the typical number of games on the docket. Two big rule changes reportedly coming: The designated hitter will be used in the National League, and extra innings will begin with a runner on second base.
The season will resume under much remaining uncertainty, with the number of COVID-19 infections on the rise in many states across the country. As of Tuesday morning, that included a dozen states that are home to a combined 20 major league teams, or two-thirds of the league.
Positive tests recently reached baseball, too, with four teams experiencing positive tests last Friday alone. That led to the league closing the doors of every spring training facility in Florida and Arizona. Teams will hold the second round of spring training at their home ballparks.
As the days move on, we’ll find out more about a variety of subjects. But for now, baseball is back.