Baseball is Back: Here's What You Need to Know
After almost four months of negotiations the MLB and the MLBPA have finally agreed to settle their differences and agree to a deal. Baseball is finally back and although it will be an abbreviated season, there will certainly be a lot of interesting things that will make this season different from the others.
Players are expected to return to camp for July 1st for a shortened, second spring training, that is going to be around three weeks in length. After that we will finally have opening day, just four months later than normal on either July 23rd or July 24th. There are still a lot of questions on the specific details of the season but the MLB has given out a lot of information on how they’re planning to run the league this year. With that being said there’s still a lot of information that we learned over the past two days and that’s what I want to quickly go over in this article.
(Picture Credit: Sportsnaut)
The 2020 season will consist of 60 games for each team. There will be no host cities like the NBA and NHL are doing and teams will be traveling like any other season. There will be no division re-alignments and it is unclear how each team's schedule will break down. I would expect there to be no east-west traveling, and at least 50% of teams games to be played against divisional opponents.
For the 2020 season, each time will start with a runner at second base during each half inning in the 10th inning and beyond. This is something that has been tested in the minor leagues over the past year, and Manfred has shown interest in bringing it to the MLB. The point of this rule is to increase the popularity and speed of the game, two things that the MLB could really use. It’s unsure if this is a long term rule for the MLB to fix their popularity problem, but it’ll certainly be interesting to see it used for the shortened 2020 season.
I think many of this knew this was coming for a long time, and in the 2020 season the DH will be used universally in both the AL and NL. This is to try and limit how tired pitchers get and promote more offense, something that the MLB hopes will increase popularity. This is not a permanent rule, but if it works out well in 2020 then I think we will see the end of pitchers hitting in the MLB.
After new rules were passed this off-season, the Injured List time periods were expected to return to 15 days and 60 days, as they were prior to 2017. Instead the MLB has decided to change that ruling and will now be using 10 day, and 45 day, IL periods for the 2020 season. This makes a lot of sense as putting a player with a serious injury on what was the 60 day IL, basically keeps them out for the entire season. These shorter periods will allow teams to make easier decisions when a player is injured. There will also be a new IL for players who contract COVID-19, and there is no minimum or maximum time that players must spend on the IL if they contract the virus.
The MLB has banned chewing tobacco and sunflower seeds for the 2020 season, in an act to try and prevent players from spitting and spreading germs in the dugout. Players may receive a fine if they are caught doing these things while in the stadium. Chewing gum will still be allowed but a player must keep it in their mouth.
Arguing with an empire about a close call has always been a part of baseball, but if you try and do it this year you will be immediately ejected and suspended. This is because the MLB is trying to limit how many times players are within six feet of other players and umpires on the field. If a manager comes out of the dugout or a player leaves their position to argue with an umpire, there will be consequences as said before.
Gripping the Ball
Pitchers often lick their fingers during games to get a better grip on the ball, especially when it’s hot and humid out. The MLB will prohibit pitchers from doing that this year, but will instead allow them to carry a wet rag in their back pocket to help them grip the baseball.
The MLB will be increasing roster sizes at the beginning of the season to help players ease into the season after a shortened spring training. For the first two weeks teams will be allowed to carry 30 players on their roster, for the two weeks after that roster will be cut down to 28 players, and after the first month teams will only be allowed to carry 26 players on their team. There will be no rules on how a team may construct their roster, and they may carry as many pitchers or hitters they want.
Smaller Rule Changes
Position players will be allowed to pitch this year, despite the new rules that were passed prior to the virus. However, the MLB will be sticking to their rule where pitchers must face at least three batters when coming into the game. The only exceptions to this are if a pitcher is brought in during the middle of an inning, they are only required to finish the inning if that is done before three batters are faced, or if a pitcher is injured and is unable to continue.
If a game is cut short and unable to resume before five innings, the teams will resume play at a later date. This is a big change from years past where a game would have to begin from the start if it was stopped before five innings were played.
The MLB holds the right to relocate teams to a new city if a COVID-19 outbreak occurs in their city and is deemed too dangerous to play at that location.
The playoff format will remain the same from years past and there will be no expanded playoffs as was rumored.
- Andrew Gardner, UNH '23