We’re getting baseball back! Or, well, that’s the plan anyways. 60 games and the playoffs. That’s what everyone is hoping for, and it’s COVID-19 that everyone’s hoping to avoid. With how this year has played out, a lot of things are very different in 2020, and that’s extending to baseball rules this year, too. There’s a whole lot of things that are going to be different, so let’s take a look at some of them.
The first thing will be that players are reporting to their home team cities on July 1st and all teams with the possible exception of the Toronto Blue Jays, will hold their spring training 2.0 there. The Blue Jays may have to play at a site in the United States due to travel restrictions into Canada – but that has not yet been determined. This, however, will not have any effect on the Cincinnati Reds, who will not be playing the Blue Jays this season.
The regular season is set to begin either July 23rd or July 24th per the Major League Baseball press release. The schedule has not yet been set, but we do know a few things about it. Each team will play 40 games against opponents within their own division, and they will play 20 games against the American League version of their division. For the Reds that means that they will play 20 games against the American League Central – with six games coming against Cleveland, and the other 14 games against the remaining teams within the AL Central. How those 14 games will be divided up has yet to be determined.
There will be a designated hitter in the National League for 2020. In previous offers it was for both 2020 and 2021, but for now it’s only happening in 2020. This likely works out well for the Reds, who have 983 outfielders vying for at-bats.
Rosters will be 30 players on opening day. After 15 days that number will drop to 28 active players. After 29 days of the season that will drop again, this time to 26 players. That’s where the roster limit will remain for the rest of the season. There are no expanded rosters in September this year. But teams will have a 60-man “organizational roster” that will include the active roster number, and the remaining players will be on the taxi squad according to Jayson Stark of The Athletic. Those 60 players must be determined by Sunday at 3pm ET. Players from the taxi squad will not travel with the team, and will not practice with the active roster – they will instead practice at a different location. However, up to three players from the taxi squad can travel on the road. These players will not get big league pay, or service time according to Sports Illustrated’s Emma Baccellieri.
In past offers from Major League Baseball only players who were considered “high risk” were able to opt out of playing while still receiving pay and service time. The players were very much against that and they fought it and won. Players have the option of opting out of the season. If a player or someone who lives with them is considered high risk or is pregnant, then they can opt out and still be paid and get their service time. If a player is not considered high risk, nor do they have someone living with them who is pregnant or considered high risk, they can still opt out, but they will not be paid according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Updated on June 24th: Conflicting report from Evan Drellich of The Athletic suggests that perhaps this isn’t the case. From Drellich:
Players who live with or are regularly in close contact with individuals at high risk also could sit out, but would not automatically receive pay and service. The union attempted to carve out that requirement but ultimately the league balked, likely fearing potential loopholes.
Teams still can choose to be accommodating, however. Consider, for example, a player whose wife is pregnant, or who has a child who is high risk. If such a player opted out, he technically would not be in line to receive pay or service, according to the new protocols. But, alternatively, a player could go on the Paternity List for the maximum of three days and receive both pay and service time, as is normally the case. The player then could potentially extend time away by going on the Family Medical Emergency List for a maximum of seven days.
More time after that would likely demand placement on the restricted list. But teams can also give full service and pay to players in those situations if they choose, and perhaps in these conditions, they would do just that.
The trade deadline has been pushed back to August 31st. Usually it falls on the final day of July, but with the season only being a week old at that point it made very little sense to keep it there.
In 2020 when games reach extra innings the inning will begin with a runner on second base. This only applies during the regular season, not the post season according to Jayson Stark of The Athletic.
When it comes to the health and safety of the players, managers, coaches, umpires, and staff at the stadiums – there’s a lot going on. We’re going to try and hit on some of the more important stuff, but we aren’t going to cover everything.
The biggest thing may be that Major League Baseball has the power to move a team during the season to a neutral site/city if needed. This also goes for the playoffs according to Bob Nightengale.
Arguing with an umpire isn’t going to be the same. Anyone who comes within six feet of an umpire to argue will be ejected and face a possible suspension according to Joel Sherman of MLB Network. He also notes that fighting will result in automatic ejection with possible suspensions and fines.
Players are not allowed to spit. They will be required to bring their own equipment to the mound (rosen bag, for 2020 only they are allowed a wet rag on the mound to use to improve their grip rather than old faithful – licking their fingers. Hitters are required to bring their own pine tar and donuts to the on-deck circle – basically, you can’t share anything with anyone.)
Jayson Stark has a few more things at The Athletic if you would like to get a fuller grasp on everything.