Major League Baseball will hold its Opening Day festivities on July 23 or 24 after players signed off on the health and safety protocols for a 60-game regular season on Tuesday.
Players will report for preseason activities on July 1, and will prepare to play a season in which they will earn their full prorated salaries.
Regional Play, Accelerated Extra Innings in Store for 2020
The MLB Players Association tweeted Tuesday night to tell fans that the season was a go.
All remaining issues have been resolved and Players are reporting to training camps.
— MLBPA Communications (@MLBPA_News) June 24, 2020
“All remaining issues have been resolved and players are reporting to training camps,” the union wrote.
The abbreviated season comes with a number of changes, some of which are concessions to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Teams will only play against other clubs in their geographic region. Each team will play 10 games against each of their divisional opponents, and four games against each of five interleague opponents. Roster size will start at 30 players, though that will come down to 26 as the season continues. Teams will maintain a taxi squad that will make up to 60 players available for the roster at any time.
Fans will also see some on-the-field changes. National League teams will use the designated hitter, in what could end up being a permanent change to the game – though that’s yet to be determined. In extra innings, each team will start with a runner on second base in order to reduce the likelihood of extended games.
All of these new rules won’t mean a thing unless MLB can safely begin and conclude the season, though. Recent events have led many to question whether it’s realistic for sports leagues to operate in the current climate.
COVID-19 Already Impacting Major League Baseball Season
Twelve members of the Philadelphia Phillies organization have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent days, with most of those cases originating from the team’s spring training facility in Clearwater, Florida, which the team shut down on Friday. MLB responded by shutting down all spring training sites in both Florida and Arizona – two of the states experiencing the largest COVID-19 outbreaks at the moment.
On Tuesday, The Denver Post reported that three Colorado Rockies players also tested positive for the virus, one of whom showed symptoms of the disease. Several media outlets confirmed that Charlie Blackmon is among those three players.
International travel could also be an issue for the Toronto Blue Jays and their opponents. Canadian officials say MLB has yet to submit a restart proposal, a necessary step before the government will grant the league an exemption letter similar to the one the National Hockey League obtained. The US-Canada border is closed for nonessential travel until at least July 21, and anyone entering Canada for nonessential purposes must self-quarantine for 14 days.
The Blue Jays could consider playing at their spring training complex in Dunedin, Florida, though that seems less likely after the recent closures and the rising caseload in the state.
“The regular-season locale is still a work in progress,” Blue Jays spokesperson Richard Griffin told reporters. “That’s all we can say at this time.”
Bettors and sportsbooks are now preparing for a short, frantic season in which a team’s chances could change dramatically after a single hot or cold streak. The Dodgers and the Yankees enter the season as +375 co-favorites, according to PointsBet. But 13 teams come in with odds of +2500 or less, a sign that everyone acknowledges this will be a wide-open, unpredictable pennant race.