It’s officially official: Baseball is back.
Tuesday night saw the players’ union announce that all remaining issues between them and the league were resolved and that players will be reporting to spring training on July 1.
The 2020 season will be comprised of 60 games beginning on either July 23 or 24 and running through Sept. 27, giving fans their first taste of baseball this year after Opening Day was canceled due to coronavirus.
What followed was three months of ineffective, frustrating negotiations that only bruised the game’s reputation as talks surmounted to commissioner Rob Manfred implementing the season.
Two stubborn negotiating parties aside, MLB’s next hurdle will be ensuring the health and safety of its players, coaches, and personnel amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
The plan will be that teams will play in their respective ballparks, unlike the central bubble format that will be used in the NBA, NBA, and MLS.
That means strict guidelines will be in place when it comes to travel, social distancing, and player interactions that still raises plenty of question marks concerning the viability of the season. Especially when considering the spike in positive cases reported around baseball — most notably seven Philadelphia Phillies players.
According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, players will be tested every other day where behaviors such as spitting, high-fiving, and pitchers licking their fingers will have to be tweaked.
Worries aside, the 2020 season will be something baseball fans have never seen before as a World Series champion will be crowned in three-to-four months rather than the usual seven or eight.
In the 60-game season, each team will play their divisional opponent 10 times, making up 40 games. The other 20 will be played against American League opponents in their corresponding division.
For example, the Texas Rangers of the American League West will play their divisional rivals — the Houston Astros, Oakland A’s, Seattle Mariners, and Los Angeles Angels — 10 times. They’ll also play each member of the National League West — the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, Colorado Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks, and San Diego Padres — four times.
This season will also feature — for the first time in its history dating back to 1876 — the National League using a designated hitter under the league’s universal DH rule.
To ensure games are completed promptly in a taxing season that will see 60 games in 66 days, extra innings will begin with a runner in scoring position.
The postseason will look the same as always, though, with 10 teams making the playoffs rather than the 16 that had been proposed during negotiations.