According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Major League Baseball is scheduled to discuss plans for the 2020 season with owners in a conference call Monday. With ownership approval, the plan will be presented to the players’ union for approval the next day.
Rosenthal provided an outline of some of the key components of the plan. It should be noted that absolutely nothing is official. The plan is also subject to approval from medical experts. Experts also need to be confident that testing would be sufficiently available without taking away tests for healthcare workers and populations most vulnerable to COVID-19. Players will also be expected to take a pay cut, which could get in the way of an agreement between the two sides. The union already agreed to pro-rated salaries for the 2020 season.
One of the more notable aspects of the plan is that the season is expected to begin in early July with 78 to 82 games scheduled. Teams would only play games against teams within their region. For example, the Phillies would only play against NL and AL East opponents. Per Rosenthal, if a 78-game schedule is in place, the Phillies would play the Nationals, Braves, Marlins and Mets 12 times and the Orioles, Blue Jays, Rays, Red Sox and Yankees six times.
The league aims to play as many regular season games in home ballparks as possible. If a team is located in a metropolitan area where the virus still is not yet under control, the team would either temporarily relocate to another major-league city or to their spring training home in Arizona or Florida.
It’s unclear so far whether spring training would occur in home parks. Governor Tom Wolf extended Stay-at-Home orders in Pennsylvania until June 4, so it is safe to say that it is unlikely the Phillies will hold spring training in Philadelphia. Considering players such as Andrew McCutchen, J.T. Realmuto, Aaron Nola, Spencer Howard and Nick Pivetta stayed in Clearwater during the shutdown, it may be more convenient to hold spring training in Florida. Not to mention, Clearwater is significantly less densely populated than Philadelphia and multiple fields are available as opposed to one.
The postseason is expected to expand in 2020 with a plan similar to the one Joel Sherman of The New York Post reported back in February. The two division winners in the AL and NL with the best records receive a first-round bye in the new wild-card round. The two other division leaders and the wild card team with the best record in each league will face the three other wild card teams in a three-game series. That means the postseason expands from five teams in each league to seven. Rosters could also expand to as many as 50 players.
There are plenty of details that still need to be hashed out. Will there be a universal DH? When will the trade deadline be? What if the schedule needs to be adjusted on the fly? What if a player refuses to play? What is the league’s plan for when a player or staffer tests positive for the virus? We will become more aware of the final details in the weeks to come but there are still more questions than answers that need to be addressed when it comes to MLB’s plan to start the 2020 season.
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