Baseball is even backer than it was yesterday.
Yesterday we learned how the game of baseball would try and come back, as Commissioner Rob Manfred mandated a 60-game season per the March agreement between the MLBPA and the league’s owners after the union rejected a similar deal with significant concessions. Today, the league and players union had far better success in negotiations, it seems. While the discussions rolled past their initial timeframe into extra innings in true baseball fashion, the end result appears to be a satisfactory one.
The deal is done between MLbPa and Mlb on health and safety protocols. Game on— Karl Ravech (@karlravechespn) June 24, 2020
After mandating the season, the league saw the union’s read receipt and requested a rapid turnaround on a thumbs up in response to two questions: will the players report to spring training 2.0 on July 1st at their respective home ballpark, and will they approve the health and safety protocols outlined by the league? Throughout the afternoon, the answer to the first question appeared to be yes, but negotiations on the nitty-gritty of health and safety were understandably lengthier. This evening, however, it appears both sides were satisfied.
All remaining issues have been resolved and Players are reporting to training camps.— MLBPA Communications (@MLBPA_News) June 24, 2020
The details are not yet out in their entirety, but many components have been widely reported at this point. Of particular note and interest are changes to the schedule, as well as temporary rule alterations to suit the shortened season. The schedule will be 60 games, as previously stated, beginning July 23rd or 24th after a three-week spring training that will start on July 3rd, two days after players are expected to report. Spring training will be incremental and predominantly internal, held at the home stadiums of each team and potentially a secondary nearby approved area, though the league intends to have a small number of scrimmages before games begin in earnest.
MLB calling for 3-phase spring training plan.— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) June 24, 2020
Phase 1: individual and small group workouts
Phase 2: larger or full-team workouts
Phase 3: limited number of Spring Training games against other Clubs
All employees subject to in-depth screening when they arrive at camp.
The regular season schedule will be broken up between 40 games exclusively in-division, and 20 games with the geographical counterpart to the division (e.g. AL West vs. NL West). While it’s felt like the Mariners already play ~40% of their games against the Athletics, that will be closer to the truth this season. Still, some time at Coors is always fun, the Vedder Cup is always neat, a Haniger+Crawford+Taijuan vs. Marte clash can be a little storyline, and the chance to see the Mookie Betts-led Dodgers is an enticing carrot to see dangled after his season in L.A. seemed potentially fully foregone.
All of that might as well be a fairytale, of course, if the league can’t safely orchestrate their season for players and personnel, which is an “if” large enough to scupper what optimism MLB has whipped up today. The extent of the health and safety plans continue to be unveiled, but a few key details have already emerged. First, it seems the players union successfully convinced MLB to allow players with high-risk immediate family, not just those high-risk themselves, to opt out of the season and still receive pay and service time.
MLB agrees to union’s proposal in health/safety protocol that all players who cohabitate with a high-risk individual, including a pregnant spouse, has the right to opt out and be paid with service time. Previously, it was only high-risk players who could opt out and still be paid— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) June 24, 2020
As some reporters have noted, there are many high-profile players who would qualify with high-risk cohabitants, and there will likely be some players who do in fact opt-out. Non-high-risk players/players without high-risk cohabitators are reportedly eligible to opt out as well, though they will not be compensated. While there will be slight adjustments to the regular injured lists - 10-day IL for both pitchers and position players, and a 45-day “60 game” IL - the COVID-19 IL will be its own animal.
While the regular injured list will be for 10 days in 2020, MLB is expected to institute a special COVID-19-related injured list for players who test positive, have confirmed exposure or are exhibiting symptoms. Players would not have a specific number of days to spend on it.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) June 23, 2020
Further limitations come for the rosters, traveling, the trade deadline, and the ways teams can send scouts out.
Here come more adjusted rules for 2020:— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) June 23, 2020
*Transactions freeze ends this Friday at noon ET
*Teams must submit 60-man player pool names by Sunday at 3 ET
*In-person scouting will be allowed.
*Teams can take up to 3 taxi squad players on road (but if 3, one must be a catcher) https://t.co/Og6Ix7TBeE
MLB is also using this opportunity to test out a few things they’ve been bandying about, like the universal DH:
DH is here to stay. For the first time in #MLB history the DH will be a part of all NL Games. in 2020.— Jim Bowden (@JimBowdenGM) June 24, 2020
We’ll also be shaving precious moments off tied games with the adoption of the “courtesy runner” on second in extra innings, as seen in the minors last season:
Also this year the MLB plan is to use the Minor League rule with the runner on second to expedite extra-inning games ending, since the spring will be short, the schedule will be tight and there’s a desire to avoid 15-inning games and longer.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) June 23, 2020
And Nashville, a possible expansion team site, might be host unsigned players as a catchall talent farm for MLB:
(1/2) The Nashville Sounds Baseball Club has had discussions with Major League Baseball about the possibility of hosting games that would consist of free agents competing against each other at First Horizon Park this summer.— Nashville Sounds (@nashvillesounds) June 24, 2020
Details are still emerging and we’ll probably have more to share as the situation develops. Next up will likely be making a plan for MiLB, as well. For now, this is a lot to soak in so maybe just...let it marinate for a while. For now, it looks like baseball is back. Let’s hope that’s in everyone’s best interest.