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For sports fans, the last several months have been especially difficult. Not only have we all had to stay at home, but we haven’t had sports of any kind to watch on TV. The coronavirus has drastically changed the look of sports at every level. And while we may not be through with social distancing and travel restrictions, we are at least beginning to get some sports back. Here, we will break down what the MLB in 2020 looks like and what to expect from your favorite baseball team as they kick off a much delayed but much anticipated season. So, let’s play ball! (Updated July 25, 2020)
The Season Details
The MLB in 2020 will play a very shortened season. Instead of the typical 162 games, they will instead only play 60 games. The regular season began on July 23 with two night games. Opening Day is today (July 24)!
The Regular Season
To minimize travel, teams will play 40 games against their divisional opponents (10 games against each opponent). Each team will play 20 games at home and 20 on the road. The 10 games against each opponent will occur in 3 series.
Additionally, they will play 20 interleague games against teams in the geographical division of the opposite league. So, for example, the AL West will play against the NL West. Six of these games will pit natural interleague rivals against each other. Three of these games will be at home and three will be on the road. Teams will also play four games each against two additional interleague opponents, two at home and two on the road. Lastly, they will face two more opponents from the opposite league. They will play a 3 game series at home against one and a 3 game series on the road against the other.
The shortened season, as you might imagine, also comes with some special rules. These include the following:
- The designated hitter will be used in both the American and National Leagues.
- The trade deadline will be August 31.
- The season will open with each team having a 30 man roster. Two weeks later, they must reduce their rosters to 28 players. And four weeks after the season starts, teams must cut their rosters to 26 players.
- During extra innings, each half inning will begin with a runner on 2nd base. This runner will be the batter who was the last out in the previous inning.
- If a game is suspended before completing 5 innings, it will resume at a later date instead of being restarted.
With all the changes, you may be asking yourself what the playoffs for the MLB in 2020 will look like. They will look different too, but not because of the pandemic. Just before the first game started, they instituted a new playoff format that they have been working on for a while. The new format expands the playoffs from 10 to 16 teams. The top two teams from each division will make the playoffs. Additionally, two wild card teams from each league will advance to postseason play. The wild card teams will play a best-of-3 series instead of a sudden death game. The league championship series and the World Series will continue to be a best-of-7 series.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays has been affected the most by the coronavirus and the restrictions on the MLB in 2020. The Canadian government has denied the team’s request to play their games at home. Government officials feel it is too risky for the Blue Jays to be constantly crossing back and forth over the border to play in the United States. So, the Toronto team will play their regular season home games (which begin on July 29) in their Triple A minor league home in Buffalo, New York.
There will, of course, be additional safety precautions put into place due to the coronavirus this season. These restrictions and precautions are meant to protect the players, coaches, and other team personnel from getting sick. The restrictions include:
- Players, coaches, and personnel will all be tested for COVID-19 every other day.
- If a person tests positive, they will be quarantined. A player must test negative twice before being allowed to return.
- They will also receive antibody testing approximately once per month.
- Temperature and symptoms checks will be conducted at least twice per day.
- Personnel and players who are not expected to play in a particular game (such as the next game’s starting pitcher) will not be allowed to be in the dugout or bull pen. They will watch the game from the stands or another designated place. They will be required to sit at least 6 feet apart.
- Non-playing personnel must wear masks at all times in the dugout and bull pen.
- Spitting and chewing tobacco is not allowed.
- There will be no celebratory contact. So, no high fives, fist bumps, hugs, or pats on the back.
- Coaches will not exchange lineup cards prior to the first pitch.
- A ball will be put out of play once it has been touched by multiple players.
- The MLB is allowed to relocate teams to neutral sites for health or safety reasons if determined to be necessary.
Players Opting Out of the MLB in 2020
While the MLB in 2020 is taking as many precautions as possible to salvage their season while keeping players safe, some players have decided to opt out of playing this year. They feel that it is just not best for them personally to participate. According to espn.com, cbssports.com, and the sportingnews.com, the following players will be sitting out this year (as of July 23, 2020):
- Mike Leake, Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher
- Felix Hernandez, Atlanta Braves pitcher
- Nick Markakis, Atlanta Braves outfielder
- Collin McHugh, Boston Red Sox pitcher
- Michael Kopech, Chicago White Sox pitcher
- Ian Desmond, Colorado Rockies outfielder
- David Price, LA Dodgers pitcher
- Hector Noesi, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher
- Jordan Hicks, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher
- Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants catcher
- Tyson Ross, San Francisco Giants pitcher
- Joe Ross, Washington Nationals pitcher
- Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals first baseman
- Welington Castillo, Washington Nationals catcher
What It Means For Fans
So, the big question is what does all these changes to the MLB in 2020 mean for baseball fans. Well, the good news is that you will be able to watch your favorite team this year. But, the bad news is that there will be no fans in the stands. So, all of your cheering will have to be done in front of the television. Luckily, the various sports broadcasting stations are as excited to have baseball back as you are. ESPN will be broadcasting 6 games during the opening weekend, with more to come as the season progresses. Fox Sports will have a triple header on Saturday, July 25, which is the first weekend for regular season play. TBS will resume their Sunday baseball coverage on July 26.
Notable Dates During the Season
Fans can look forward to celebrating the following special dates with the MLB in 2020:
- August 13–The Chicago White Sox and St. Louis Cardinals will play at the Field of Dreams in Iowa.
- August 16–The MLB will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues.
- August 28–Jackie Robinson Day
- September 9–Roberto Clemente Day
- September 27–Last day of the regular season. All games on this day will start at 3 pm Eastern Time to maximize the drama of last minute jockeying for playoff positions.
2020 looks very different from what we all expected in many ways, including sports. But, professional sports leagues are slowly beginning to return to play, which is cause for celebration from fans and players alike. The MLB in 2020 will play a shortened season, but will play nonetheless. For baseball fans, this is the best news of all! So, enjoy your season! For more on sports in 2020, see our post on the NBA and MLS in 2020 and what to expect from college football in 2020. Happy travels (even if it is just in your dreams right now)!
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