Coronavirus

Will there be fans at MLB games? What you need to know about 2020 season

Will there be fans at MLB games? What you need to know about 2020 season

Baseball is back. Three glorious words.

After months of unsuccessful negotiating with the players' association, MLB has imposed a 2020 season and the two sides have agreed on health and safety protocols. 

The new season will not, however, include a few of the rule changes you may have recently read about.

Here are all the details you need to know about baseball's shortened upcoming season. 

When does the MLB regular season start?

Opening day will be July 23 or 24. MLB will attempt to cram 60 games into about 66 days. Players report to camp on July 1 for Spring Training II.

How many games?

It will be a 60-game regular season. The league had proposed as few as 50 games and the players' association had proposed as many as 114. In the end, 60 was the number the league chose when it unilaterally implemented the 2020 season.

Given MLB's new coronavirus cases, the league's desire to play the postseason in October, and the length these negotiations took, a regular season much longer than 60 games was no longer feasible. But the players still rejected the league's 60-game proposal for a few important reasons.

Where is the Phillies' schedule?

It is not out yet, but the Phils' schedule will include heavy doses of the NL East and AL East. That is not good for the Phillies. Teams will stay in their geographic regions to limit travel.

Will fans be allowed at MLB games? Where will games be played?

While games will be played in home ballparks, fans will not be permitted in the stands for the 2020 MLB season. The Phillies' entire schedule will be televised on NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBC Sports Philadelphia+, and NBC10, aside from exclusive national games.

What's the deal with Spring Training II?

For the Phillies, it will take place in Philadelphia at Citizens Bank Park and in Lehigh Valley at the complex of their Triple A affiliate IronPigs. Players will report by July 1. There will be a three-week period for intrasquad games and baseball activities. Pitchers need to rebuild stamina and hitters need to find their timing against live pitching.

What about the MLB playoff format?

The playoffs will not expand from 10 teams to 16 for the 2020 season. The expanded playoff field was a piece of previous proposals but is not part of the 2020 season the league is implementing.

This means the playoff field will remain the same as it did in 2019 — three division-winners and two wild-cards per league.

How much will players get paid?

Players will get their full prorated salaries for the 60-game regular season. A 60-game season is 37% of a normal 162-game season. A player making just over $25 million per year like Bryce Harper would make about $9.4 million. A player making $10 million like J.T. Realmuto would make $3.7 million.

Remember, too, that the league advanced the players $170 million as part of the March 26 agreement. It means that some players have already been paid the bulk of what they will be paid in 2020. Here is a breakdown of how that $170 million was distributed.

How large will expanded rosters be?

Rosters will expand to 30 active players to begin the season. That number drops to 28 after two weeks and to 26 after four weeks, according to Jayson Stark.

More players will be available via the taxi squad. Key Phillies minor-leaguers like Spencer Howard and Alec Bohm are expected to be with the big-league team. Without a minor-league season, young prospects will need somewhere to develop.

And the DH?

The designated hitter will be universal in 2020 as an added protective measure to help prevent pitcher injury. But the DH will not be universal in 2021, the final year of the current collective bargaining agreement. Beyond that CBA, we could see the DH stick for good.

Any other quirks?

An August 31 trade deadline. Runners placed on second base in extra innings to prevent marathon games. Probably some others, too. Keep checking back.

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Tobias Harris discusses Sixers’ chemistry issues, positive COVID-19 tests across NBA

Tobias Harris discusses Sixers’ chemistry issues, positive COVID-19 tests across NBA

Tobias Harris on Friday addressed a series of topics ranging from his concern over health and safety risks with the NBA’s plan to resume the season at Disney World to the Sixers’ chemistry issues this year. 

In an interview on ESPN’s "First Take," he spoke honestly about whether he believes the league should go ahead and restart play on July 30 in Orlando. The Sixers are scheduled to travel to Disney World on July 9.

“That’s a tough one for me to answer,” he said. “I would say that if we’re going to be safe, then let’s play. If the league, if my fellow brothers in the NBA want to go out and play, I’m with playing. I know my teammates, they want to go hoop, so I’m with my team to go hoop. 

“Do I think necessarily it’s the safest thing? No. That’s just straight up and down. I don’t think it’s the safest thing. You look around the world, the cases continue to rise. But that’s also on the NBA to make sure we’re in a safe environment.”

Harris called the announcement Friday from the NBA and NBPA that 16 players tested positive for the coronavirus (out of 302 tested) “not surprising,” in the context of a recent spike in United States cases

“You look around the world with cases continuing to rise now, you’re going to see an increase in cases, even with guys in our league,” he said. “The biggest thing for us is to just make sure we’re put in a situation where we can be healthy and we can go out and do our job and play. That’s how I look at it. It wasn’t surprising, the number.”

As usual, he gave a nuanced explanation for why he’s choosing to play, citing an opportunity to advocate for change and against racism and police brutality, as well as future financial harms for players if the season doesn’t conclude with a champion which he'd like to avoid.

“COVID-19 — our health, our safety — and then everything going in the world with pushing the message, Black Lives Matter, equality, police brutality, are both things, for me, that I’m heavily concerned about,” he said. “With the bubble … I have to know that I’m healthy, that I’m OK with going out there and I’m not going to be put at a high risk. And on top of that, I also have to take the responsibility as a leader of my team and as a player in the NBA to continue to push the message of what we want overall for the African American community, and that’s change. We have to use our platforms when we go to Orlando to continue to push this message.”

When the discussion shifted to basketball, Harris assessed what went wrong for the Sixers this year and why the team sits at 39-26, sixth in the Eastern Conference and below where it expected to be heading into the season.

I’ll just say, and I’ll keep it real, we haven’t had the best chemistry throughout the whole year. It took us a while to kind of get everyone together, we battled injuries from the start to the end. And right now, if we’re the sleeper, then we’re the sleeper. Truth be told, how we’re viewed, that’s someone else’s opinion, but I know when I look my guys in the eye and we have conversations, we have one goal in mind, and that’s to go out there and play and win a championship. 

“That’s the only view that matters to me. What people have to say about our team, I get it, because we haven’t met our expectations so far this year. But we have a new opportunity in Orlando to go out and just play ball, and really scratch a new surface of what we can accomplish.

In an interview Wednesday with NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Michael Barkann, Charles Barkley had given the Sixers that same “sleeper” label and said he believed Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid will be the best two players in any Eastern Conference series involving the Sixers besides a matchup against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks. 

Despite the concerns he laid out, Harris insisted the Sixers can come away with a title in what might be the most unusual conclusion to an NBA season ever. 

 “I’ve always been in contact with all of my teammates throughout this process,” he said, “mainly just to make sure guys are in a good space mentally, asking, ‘Hey, do you want to go hoop out here? What’s your opinion?’ Not really holding much judgement to it. … I believe that when we go out here and go hoop, we have a chance to win a championship. We’re going to be healthy, a lot healthier than before — having Ben recovered and fully healed is big for us — and we’ve just gotta go out there and play basketball. 

“This for us is kind of like an AAU tournament. We’ve just gotta go out there and hoop, play our best and do what we do. But I really believe that we’re going to have a clear-cut shot to win a championship, and I stand on that.”

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NFL stadiums will put tarps over certain seats, sell ad space: report

NFL stadiums will put tarps over certain seats, sell ad space: report

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is going to make football fans' views of the 2020 NFL season look a lot more commercial.

NFL teams are expected to be able to sell sign space to local sponsors and advertisers this fall, with TV-viewable rows of seats blocked off to limit the number of fans in stadiums, according to the Sports Business Journal.

From the SBJ: 

The first six to eight rows of seating in every stadium -- including on-field suites -- will be off limits to fans this season. That move is officially to protect players, coaches and team staff from coronavirus exposure, but it would also free up that space to become lucrative sponsorship assets.

Sources said those seats will be covered by tarps that could include sponsor logos.

If you've been following the English Premier League's restart, you'll be familiar with the concept. If not, you can see the sold ad space at the very left of this photo:

It'll be interesting to see how individual teams handle the ad space, but this is a smart move from a business standpoint.

Last month, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Dave Zangaro explored just how much money the Eagles will lose if the 2020 season is played without fans in the stadiums.

The Eagles stand to lose the ninth-most money of any team, per a Forbes analysis, at roughly $204 million:

"Based on numbers from the 2018 season, the NFL would lose $5.5 billion in stadium revenue without fans in stadiums. 

"For this story, stadium revenue includes the total of ticket sales, concessions, sponsors, parking and team stores. 

"The Eagles in 2018 were tied for eighth in the NFL with $204 million in stadium revenue. Just the Cowboys, Patriots, Giants, Texans, Jets 49ers and Redskins made more."

Ad space on tarps won't make up that enormous gap, but considering more football fans than usual will be watching games on TV this fall, the ads won't come cheap.

Here's hoping the Eagles find sponsors who are suitably Philly.

The Eagles' first home game of 2020 is scheduled for Aug. 27, a home preseason game against the Patriots. Their first regular season home game of 2020 is scheduled for Sept. 20 against the Rams in Week 2.

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