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.

35 Responses

  1. CFD3000

    The league and teams should allow fans in all games. 4% of capacity with 5 seats and 5 rows between fans, masks mandatory. No concessions (bring your own) and no vendors. Tickets are free and awarded by internet lottery. Okay, I know this isn’t going to happen, and I know it’s not even up to the teams, but I think we’re all underestimating how weird it’s going to be to see baseball without fans. I really hope the geniuses in the owners’ Suites and the players union recognize that they’ve screwed up and use this process as a “what not to do” to get baseball back on track for 2021 and beyond.

    Also, runner on 2nd? Not a fan of that. Yikes. But baseball is almost back. I’m excited. Go Reds!

    • Mike V

      Agree with your points regarding fans down the line along with the conclusion that it will and cannot happen . As for the runner on second to start the extra inning , I have a wait and see attitude there . Usually a traditionalist , I think investing 3 plus hours at the ballpark is enough , especially for the casual , “younger ” fan . Let’s give it a shot .

    • donm10

      I agree they are ways to safely include some fans but I don’t think not having them will be as weird as you think. I actually think an totally empty stadium will be less off putting than the extremely small crowds teams often get in the early season weekend games.

      After watching many of the soccer games in Germany and England, it is weird for the first couple minutes but quickly forgotten about. Some broadcast have been including fake crowd noise, I didn’t think it’s necessary and it’s somewhat of a distraction but can see why some prefer that.

    • CFD3000

      TBD for me the answer to your question is long and multi-layered, but the simple version boils down to the unusual, nearly unique relationship that baseball has with American culture and history. On the Owner’s side they each run a very large and lucrative business but they are also each temporary caretakers of a slice of American history and tradition. As such I believe part of the privilege of owning a team is a responsibility to foster the game, to honor its history, to build and maintain a team and franchise that fans of that franchise can cheer for and be proud of, and to make those at least equal in priority to a pure profit motive. Remember that these are all men and women who are already vastly more wealthy than most of us can imagine, let alone attain. They have IMO collectively abdicated much of that responsibility in these recent negotiations.

      On the players side, each one is gifted by genetics and an ability to focus and dedicate their energies in ways that most of us, at least her on RLN, can and DO dream of, and they have been fortunate enough by circumstance and luck (health, available opportunities, parental support, etc) to be among the finest athletes in the nation. So they get to play a game for a fairly to very lucrative living. Many of us literally grew up dreaming of being among their ranks. I’m critical in many ways of his actions and choices, but the Pete Rose quote at GABP is relevant: “I’d walk through hell in a gasoline suit to play baseball”. And yet through Tony Clark and MLBPA leadership they failed to negotiate a way to do more of that this year than was possible, and have also contributed to a more contentious negotiation for the next CBA.

      There was a point when the owners and players could have reached a mutually beneficial agreement to play about 100 games, with little public acrimony. They could have shown America that they understood how fortunate they are on both sides – billionaires and their incredibly fortunate athlete employees – and how symbolically important baseball can be in times of stress. They could have given baseball a boost relative to other sports, to whom baseball has been losing fans, dollars, and potential future stars for a long time by acting sooner and together, instead of later and at odds. I for one am hugely disappointed by the delay and the contentiousness. I hate that this season will be so short, and shorter than it could and should have been. I hate that the eventual championship will come with such a large caveat for fans of the winners. I hate that we’ll all watch baseball with a little less enthusiasm this year and maybe always. Those things didn’t need to happen. We could all have been energized and grateful. Instead I for one am hugely disappointed. Opportunity lost. They screwed up.

    • greenmtred

      CFD3000: I wish that the owners and players–particularly the owners–would read your post. You make a very important point.

    • CFD3000

      TBD that’s a big part of it. Selfishness in spite of great good fortune, on both sides. But also a missed opportunity to deliver something positive to America in a time of great stress. And a missed opportunity to enhance the image and standing of a sport that so many of us love, in a broader time when that appeal is waning. I’m grateful we’ll have SOME baseball this year, but they screwed up by not recognizing their huge good fortune relative to so many who are hurting so much, by negotiating as adversaries and not partners, and by failing to honor their duty to the legacy of the game and its unique place in American culture. All of that and more.

  2. Cbus

    Glad some form of baseball is coming back, but a 60 game season, runner on 2nd in extras, missing players and the DH is going to make this feel like some strange form of the game we’ve never seen before. I’ll probably watch but it’s going to be hard to care about who wins it all this year.

    • Jefferson J Reed

      This needs to be the Red’s year to win it all and break the 30 year drought even with an abbreviate season and keep the momentum going next year and thereafter.

  3. Matt WI

    Like most, I’m not enthusiastic about something like the 10th inning runner, but as I’ve seen throughout this pandemic, having certain changes thrust upon you can actually make one more open and willing to keep the change than if left to make the decision to change on your own in the first place.

    Now is the perfect time to acknowledge that this isn’t a “regular” baseball season and so not treating it like one makes sense. I even liked some of the ideas thrown out about using a College World Series type format for the playoffs. Have fun, be crazy.

    As I creep on in middle age, I want to guard against the knee jerk reaction of “that’s not how it’s done.” I’ve loved this game for a long time, I’m pretty sure I can love it with some updates.

    Heck, I’ve been annoyed every time Redleg Nation changed its interface over the years, and yet here I still come! (Still missing the time stamps on posts though, Doug. Just sayin.’)

    • Tom Mitsoff

      Reaction to a rule change is always a personal and individual experience. I don’t mind the DH because pitchers used to be able to bunt runners along, which was a strategic advantage. But most of them can’t anymore, so it’s usually just a giveaway out. And, selfishly, the Reds are positioned perhaps better than any National League team to take advantage of the DH.

      Regarding the runner at second base in extra innings, I sure would hate to lose an important game by having the opposition’s first batter up roll one through the infield and score a runner. I like the drama of extra innings, an opinion I’m sure not shared by everyone. I’d much rather see a trial rule that would declare a tie after 10 or 11 innings, which would address the concern of games going exceptionally long.

      • Randy in Chatt

        I like the 11 inning then tie idea. It would be much like pro soccer: 3 points for a win in the standings, 1 point for a tie and 0 points for a loss, but of course, I am a soccer coach too.
        Ties, hopefully, would be a fairly rare event.

        Another caveat, who chooses the runner at 2nd? Can we sign Billy Hamilton to be the speed runner at 2nd? Does a run scored to win the game count in the stats for runs scored for the player? Does the runner at 2nd happen for both teams in the “10th” inning? Do they go to the “11th” inning if the score is still tied?
        How about a home run derby to decide the game in the 10th inning instead?
        Just some thoughts to ponder

      • Tom Mitsoff

        Randy, I have read that the player who batted last in the previous inning will be the runner who starts an extra inning at second base. Managers will certainly have the option to use pinch runners.

      • SoCalRedsFan

        Tie ballgame, two outs, nobody on, bottom of the ninth, a guy like Billy Hamilton at the plate, he’s getting the “strike out on purpose sign” if I’m the manager. I want him on second base to start the tenth.

      • jim walker

        Not sure it has been made totally official but yesterday numerous sources were reporting the man placed at @B at the start of an extra inning would be the person batting in the spot which made the last out in the previous inning. A pinch runner would be allowed; but per traditional rules, the man run for would be out of the game.

      • Matt WI

        @ SoCal- This is Billy Hamilton’s ideal usage. Not sure it’s worth a roster spot, but he was born for it 🙂

      • Matt WI

        Also… you probably don’t have to “ask” Billy to strikeout.

  4. Matt WI

    Agree w/ you about the roster size… thought it was a little weird the way they plan to winnow it down. But, small potatoes.

  5. Brad

    What would be better –

    Moose as DH – Senzel at 2nd – Shogo in CF and Castellanos in RF
    Moose at 2nd – Senzel in CF – Castellanos DH and Shogo in RF

    • SoCalRedsFan

      I’m pretty sure Castellanos will get the majority of the ABs at DH. He’s not very good in the field.

  6. jim walker

    It is nice that at least for a short respite we can actually talk about baseball here and not the $$ behind the game or the virus pandemic. Let’s hope things stay that way; and, each do our part to help in that direction in our lives away from here.

  7. Doug Gray

    This story has been updated on June 24th at 1pm ET after a conflicting report about what players opting out may or may not be entitled to in terms of service time and pay.

  8. SteveO

    Doug, are options essentially frozen until next year? Does Payton have to be on the team when the rosters go to 26?

  9. RonC

    The problem with the idiotic “runner on second” rule is that it crosses a line that has never been crossed in MLB — that you have to “earn” your way on base. It is little league. Understanding the COVID concerns, I agree (for this “season” only) I’d rather see a tie declared after the 11th or 12th inning than allow the previous inning’s last hitter (who, after all, made an OUT), to take second. Honestly, I never have understood the previous-to-COVID gripe about extra inning games. If you attend a baseball game, it is played to the finish, with a winner and a loser. However long that takes. If you don’t like that, then leave after 9 innings, or go watch a game with a time clock. It cheats the outcome, and thus the game itself, to have a runner placed at second who did not earn his way there. Anyone who would propose such a rule has no concept of what baseball competition is even about.

  10. JayTheRed

    I am doubting that they will be hardly any trade activity this short season.
    The moving around of roster size does seam silly to me. It’s only 2 months people just keep it at 30 till the playoffs.

  11. Ron Benninga

    I wonder how MLB TV will handle the blackout restrictions as there is no option to go to the games. As it sits now 20 games of the 60 will be blacked out in my region with no local programming available on my cable. As a Reds fan I will be unable to watch any of the Cards or Brewers games. I certainly hope the MLB looks at lifting the blackout restrictions for this year.

    • Doug Gray

      As of now they have no plans to lift restrictions. That, of course, could change.

    • Matt WI

      If they have any, any, brains about how to grow the sport, they’d lift the restrictions. But, I suppose it’s just as much about the exclusivity for the regional sports broadcasts than about fans showing up in the seats. Can’t have people “cutting the cord” and just using mlb.tv on their phones and smart tvs.

    • Matt WI

      Ron… how are you so unlucky as to be blacked out of 2 markets? Where do MKE and St. Louis overlap in terms of blackout restrictions?

      • Matt WI

        I looked up the black-out map- you must be in Iowa? How is Iowa blacked out of so, so, so, many teams? Wikipedia article listed both Chicagos, MKE, Royals, Cards, and Twins. What in the name of god. So if you are in Iowa, wouldn’t you be blocked out of the Cubs vs Reds games as well?

        I ditched Dish (which I should have long ago any, just for $), recently because they weren’t coming to agreement with the Sinclair group about FS Regional rights. I will probably pick up Hulu Live or Youtube TV when the game start, even if it’s just to have access to Brewers games where I live. I know I can get (almost) all the Reds’ games if I got mlb.tv, but I tend to stick to my audio. Probably best for my family that I don’t have full access to Reds games 😉

      • Ron Benninga

        Matt, you have done your research very well. I am in Galena,IL a small town near the Iowa border – and you are correct, the Cubs and White Sox games are also blacked out along with Cards and Brew crew. Its just that the Cubs and WS vrs. Reds are available on my Mediacom cable package so not worried about those. I wonder if there is any other way to subscribe for Brewers and Cards vrs Reds?? Thanks!

      • Matt WI

        Ron… nice. My wife and I spent a weekend in Galena about two years ago as a small get away. In fact just last night I was wearing my Galena Brewing Co baseball cap I picked up after doing some samplers in their restaurant!

        Sorry for the tough tv luck. MLB sure knows how to limit their product placement.

  12. Don

    Besides have players which fit the DH mold as players, using the DH should be an advantage to the teams other strength which is solid to above average starting pitching.

    Having Castillo, Gray, Bauer, Disco pulled in the 4th or 5th inning for a pinch hitter will no longer occur. Bell will not start with the double switches in the 4th inning and we end up with Casali playing 2nd and Aquino at 1st in the 8th or 9th inning due.

    I really have never wanted the NL to use the DH but with the way Bell over-managed (at least to me) with the double switches and many players playing out of position at the end of games, the DH should be even a bigger positive as it should result in the starting pitching being able to pitch 7+ innings, which means the Bullpen should have to cover fewer innings.

    The DH has the potential to be a great thing to occur for the Reds starting pitchers