Professional baseball in the U.S. has had a tough few years. It has had to deal with major cheating scandals – some of which still haven’t been resolved – and then the loss of its regular schedule when the coronavirus pandemic forced it to shut down ahead of Opening Day. The cherry on top was the blatant disregard of passion for baseball, and love of money, that led team owners and players to spend over two months trying to negotiate a deal to get back on the field. After unable (or unwilling) to reach an agreement on their own, the two sides allowed Commissioner Rob Manfred to intervene and, to the surprise of many baseball fans, players and owners have now kissed and made up. MLB is coming back and could be here within a month.
Manfred decided that 60 games would be enough to call it a season, explaining in a statement on Monday, “Major League Baseball is thrilled to announce that the 2020 season is on the horizon. We have provided the Players Association with a schedule to play 60 games and are excited to provide our great fans with Baseball again soon.” The union signed off on the arrangement yesterday, and players are expected to begin training by July 1.
Teams will play a total of 40 games against division rivals, as well as 20 interleague games. 30 players will be included in the initial lineup, but teams are expected to submit 60-men rosters. According to Mark Feinsand with MLB.com, the 30-man lineup will be reduced to 28 after two weeks and then again to 26 after Week Four. In addition, there will be a designated hitter for the entire league and, if a game goes to extra innings, second base will see a baserunner every half-inning in order to speed up the game.
The idea now is to have Spring Training begin on July 1, with the season getting underway on July 23 or 24. The schedule was put into place after owners and players reached an agreement on a variety of health and safety issues last night, for which MLB explains, “The health and safety of players and employees will remain MLB’s foremost priorities in its return to play. MLB is working with a variety of public health experts, infectious disease specialists and technology providers on a comprehensive approach that aims to facilitate a safe return.”
Those health and safety measures are going to be more important than ever. Over the past week, according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, 40 MLB players and employees have tested positive for COVID-19. Along with the spikes that have been seen in cities across the country, there is growing concern over a major resurgence of the coronavirus. In the meantime, MLB has told all spring training sites to close their doors and sanitize the facilities. Moving forward, no player or staff member will be allowed to get back to work unless a negative result on a coronavirus test is presented.