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MLB season is on (for now) as owners, MLBPA work out health & safety regulations, schedule, rules

Los Angeles Dodgers v Seattle Mariners Get ready for some of this | Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Further limitations come for the rosters, traveling, the trade deadline, and the ways teams can send scouts out.

MLB is also using this opportunity to test out a few things they’ve been bandying about, like the universal DH:

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:

And Nashville, a possible expansion team site, might be host unsigned players as a catchall talent farm for MLB:

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.

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