The Slatest

MLB, Players Agree to Restart Season With Scheduling and Rules Tweaks

A general view from the outfield bleachers in center field of Guaranteed Rate Feld, home of the Chicago White Sox, on May 08, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois.
Guaranteed Rate Feld, home of the Chicago White Sox, on May 8. Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

After an acrimonious several months of negotiations, Major League Baseball and the players’ union agreed Tuesday to a restart of what will be an abridged version of the 2020 season. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced this season will be a 60-game sprint, roughly a third of the normal 162-game schedule, beginning in one month’s time. Spring training, which was abruptly halted mid-March as the pandemic accelerated, is now set to begin on July 1 with most of the preseason sessions to take place at each team’s home ballpark rather than their traditional spring homes in Florida and Arizona, two states that are seeing surging numbers of coronavirus cases at the moment.

The 2020 season will now start on July 23 or 24, but it remains unclear what exactly some aspects of it will look like, as some details remain that need to be hammered out. Some rule twists in the works that are either interesting or heresy, depending if you’re George Will or something. For starters, the schedule looks set to be largely geographically based (for obvious reasons), irrespective of league. “MLB has submitted a 60-game regular season schedule for review by the Players Association,” the league said in a statement. “The proposed schedule will largely feature divisional play, with the remaining portion of each Club’s games against their opposite league’s corresponding geographical division (i.e., East vs. East, Central vs. Central and West vs. West) , in order to mitigate travel.”

In addition to the abridged and tweaked schedule, other potential changes, along with expanded rosters, is that the National League is expected to join the American League in allowing a designated hitter in the regular season, upending a decadeslong discrepancy in the leagues’ rules and a significant strategic shift in how the game is played in the National League. Another intriguing or jarring change, again depending on your world view, is how extra innings will be played: Each team will start with an automatic runner on second base to start each extra inning.