So, you wanna know how the shortened MLB season will work? Then this is the post for you.
It took a long time for Major League Baseball and the players to come to an agreement about to to play the 2020 season. There have been some well-documented bumps in the road with respect to getting everyone into camp, getting them tested and all of that. Hopefully, soon, that dust settles and we’ll have something approaching baseball. Assuming it does, here is everything you need to know.
When does the MLB season start?
Opening Day is split, with two games being played on July 23, with the Yankees taking on the Nationals in D.C. and the Giants taking on the Dodgers in Los Angeles. The rest of the league’s schedule getting underway on July 24. All of the details we know about the schedule can be read here.
First impression: on a day-to-day basis it looks a lot like a normal schedule, at least if you squint. Series are broken down by weekday and weekend series. Teams have days off, generally, on Mondays and Thursdays. It’s a much shorter and weirder schedule than we’re used to, but the rhythms could at least approximate something recognizable.
How many games will be played this year?
Every team plays 60 games. Teams will be playing 40 games against their own division rivals and 20 interleague games against the corresponding geographic division from the other league. Six of the 20 interleague games will be “rivalry” games, such as Mets vs. Yankees and Cubs vs. White Sox.
There will be no scheduled doubleheaders so as to limit time spent in a ballpark on a given day. Postponements will be made up, as usual, via doubleheaders, however. There will, predominantly, be night games, to maximize television ratings because, as you likely know already, there will be no fans in the stands at the outset. Possibly at all, though some states are considering allowing partial capacity crowds at some point.
Will there be a 2020 MLB All-Star Game?
Nope! It’s cancelled. The Dodgers were supposed to host the All-Star Game this year but have had their date with the Midsummer Classic moved to 2022. The next All-Star Game — the Baseball Gods willing — will be in 2021 at Truist Park in Atlanta.
Will the postseason be different?
Nope. The playoffs are still expected to start on time in early October with the same format: three division winners and two Wild Cards from each league. The Wild Cards will play a one-game playoff to face the highest seed in each league in the Division Series. The two winners of each Division Series in each league move on to play in the League Championship Series. Of course, the two winners of those square off in the World Series.
Will there be “spring training” games in 2020?
Not many. Most teams have been attempting to schedule at least one or two exhibition games for late July, just before the actual season begins. Not all teams have formally scheduled exhibition games at the moment, but that could change. The order of the day will be workouts and intrasquad and simulated games. Oh, and it’s not spring training. It’s “Summer Camp.” Yes, capitalized. It’s even sponsored by Camping World.
Will the rules be changed for the shortened 2020 season?
Yes, some will:
- Extra innings will begin with a runner on second base so as to reduce the chance of long, drawn out games;
- The National League will have a designated hitter;
- The league is abandoning its new rule which would have allowed position players to pitch only in certain situations. It’s now all-hands-on-deck at any time;
- Games that start but then are stopped due to rain before the fifth inning will no longer be considered washouts that don’t count. They will be considered suspended games that will be resumed at the point where they were stopped at a later date. The purpose of this rule is to stop the practice of keeping people in the ballpark for hours on end to make a game “official.”
- The “three-batter-rule” for relief pitchers implemented for this year — specifically, each relief pitcher that enters a game will have to either pitch to three batters or until the end of an inning before being lifted for another reliever — WILL remain as planned, though it may be relaxed in any Summer Camp exhibition games.
Will the rosters be different for the shortened 2020 season?
Oh, you bet they will be.
- Teams will carry 30 players on the active roster for the first two weeks of the season and 28 for the two weeks after that before reducing to 26 for the rest of the way;
- With no minor leagues, teams will be allowed to retain 60 players overall, as opposed to a 40-man roster, with those beyond the active roster as set forth above existing on an expanded roster. Three players from that expanded roster — a taxi squad — can travel with a team to a game. One of the three must be a catcher;
- The injured list for pitchers was supposed to change to 15 days from 10 days for 2020, but it will now remain at ten days so that pitchers won’t miss so much time;
- The trade deadline will be August 31. The active roster deadline for postseason eligibility is September 15.
All of this is, obviously, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. How will testing and all of that be dealt with in the shortened 2020 MLB season?
- First, you need to know about “covered individuals.” “Covered individuals” refers to players, coaches, staff, and basically anyone who will be involved in baseball operations;
- After reporting for Summer Camp — which all players will have by early this week — covered individuals will have their temperature and symptoms checked at least twice per day. Anyone with a temperature above 100.4 degrees can’t enter a ball park;
- If a fever or other COVID symptoms develop once someone is at the ballpark they must isolate as soon as possible. Teams must then conduct contact tracing procedures to see who the person interacted with and clean/disinfect all facilities;
- Players, coaches, trainers, and others who have close physical contact with players will have saliva tests every other day. Everyone else in and around ballparks and team operations — non-covered individuals — will also undergo testing multiple times per week. Results are supposed to come back in 24 hours, though obviously there have been some issues with that in the early going;
- Those who test positive, obviously, cannot have any contact with the team and will be placed in a special sort of injured list called the COVID-19 Related Injured List, which does not have a time limit like the normal injured list;
- Players placed on the COVID-19 injured list do have a path to return. Specifically, they have to test negative twice at least 24 hours apart, cannot have had a fever in at least 72 hours, and must have taken an antibody test. Above all of that, doctor signoff and signoff of a joint COVID-19 committee created by the league and the union, must approve as well;
- Those who merely show symptoms but whose tests come back negative can resume contact with the team once test results are returned AND they are showing no symptoms AND get doctor signoff;
- MLB’s testing is being handled by baseball’s anti-doping laboratory in Utah;
Do players have to play? Can players opt-out of the shortened MLB season?
Yes, they can, and many have already. At present, here are the players who have opted out. We will update this list as more players do so. If more players do so, anyway:
- Mike Leake (Arizona Diamondbacks)
- Ryan Zimmerman (Washington Nationals)
- Joe Ross (Washington Nationals)
- Ian Desmond (Colorado Rockies)
- Tyson Ross (Free Agent)
- David Price (Los Angeles Dodgers)
- Félix Hernández (Atlanta Braves)
- Nick Markakis (Atlanta Braves)
So there’s where we stand at the moment. That’s how the shortened MLB season will work. There is a structure. There are rules. There is a schedule. Now all everyone has to do is do their best to stay healthy and play ball.