BOSTON (CBS) — Baseball is coming back. The players and owners are done arguing and are ready to play ball, with the 2020 season now set to begin in late July.
Following months of failed negotiations, MLB implemented a 60-game season on Tuesday, with the Players Association accepting the health and safety protocols put in place by the league Tuesday night. Players will report to for training on July 1, with many teams reporting to their home stadiums.
It took until July, but it appears baseball will be back at Fenway Park. And that means fans will be back to filling out scorecards soon enough (people still do that, right?), albeit from the comfort of their own homes and not those painful seats at Fenway.
But first, there are a lot of new rules and guidelines that everyone will have to get used to. Most of that will fall on the players on the field, who have a whole new set of restrictions to follow. Those range from no celebratory high fives to no more spitting. Some of those rules will take a lot more getting used to than others.
Here is everything you need to know before teams return to the diamond:
- The 2020 regular season will begin on July 23rd or July 24th, with 60 games over a 66-day period.
- Teams will mostly play against their own division, with a few interleague games against the corresponding division. Teams will play 10 games each against the other four teams in its division, consisting of two- or three-game series. The remaining 20 games on the schedule will come against interleague counterparts (AL East vs. NL East), playing each opponent four times each.
- The National League will now use a designated hitter.
- The three-batter rule for relief pitchers will remain as planned.
- Teams will begin extra innings with a runner on second base.
- Games that are stopped due to rain before the fifth inning will no longer count as washouts, and will be considered “suspended games” that will be resumed.
- The postseason format will remain the same, with three division winners and two wild-card teams per league.
- Rosters will start with 30 players for the first two weeks of the season, drop to 28 players for the next two weeks, and then stay at 26 players the rest of the season.
- Instead of a 40-man roster, teams can retain 60 players overall. Those players not on the active roster will exist on a taxi squad, with three players from that group able to travel with the team to games. One of those three players must be a catcher.
- The trade deadline is set for Aug. 31. The active roster deadline for playoff eligibility is set for Sept. 15.
- There will be a special COVID-19 Injured List with no minimum or maximum length of time spent on it. Injury List stints will remain at 10 days, while the 60-day IL will instead last for 45 days.
- Players will be paid a full prorated portion of their 2020 salary based on games played, which will equal approximately 37 percent for the full season.
- There will be no bat boys/girls or ball boys/girls, so team staff will handle those duties. Hitters will have to bring their own equipment (pine-tar rags, donuts, etc.) with them to and from the on-deck circle.
- Pitchers will have to bring their own rosin bag to the mound, and use their own personal baseballs for bullpen sessions.
- Hitters and runners left on base will have to get their own equipment from the dugout when the inning ends.
- NO MORE SPITTING! Spitting is prohibited, including sunflower seeds and shells. Smokeless tobacco is also prohibited, while chewing gun will be allowed.
- Players licking their fingers is now prohibited. Pitchers can carry a “wet rag” in their pocket to moisten their fingers before pitches.
- Batting practice balls can only be used that day, and will have to be cleaned and sanitized after use. They cannot be reused for five days.
- Fighting and instigating is a big no-no and will be met with “severe discipline.” Players cannot make physical contact with any other players outside of making tags and other incidental contact.
- High fives, fist bumps and hugs are all prohibited. So no more elaborate high five celebrations come the playoffs.
- Showering at the ballpark is “discouraged but not prohibited.”
- Players, coaches, staff and those involved in baseball operations will have to answer a symptoms/exposure questionnaire before arriving at spring training. Those individuals will also have a temperature check, COVID-19 saliva or nose swab test, and an antibody blood test before arriving at spring training.
- Players will undergo temperature and symptom checks twice a day, and anyone with a temp higher than 100.4 degrees will not be allowed to enter a ballpark. Those who have close physical contact with players will undergo saliva tests every other day. Everyone else in and around ballparks and part of team ops. will undergo multiple tests per weeks. Test results are supposed to be returned in 24 hours.
- If someone develops COVID-19 symptoms while at the ballpark, they must isolate as soon as possible and the team will conduct contact tracing procedures and clean all facilities.
- Those who test positive will be placed on the COVID-19 Related Injured List, which does not have a time limit. To be removed from the list, players have to test negative twice at least 24 hours apart, cannot have had a fever for at least 72 hours, and must have taken an antibody test. Doctors and a joint COVID-19 committee created by the league and the union must all sign off for a player to be removed from the list.
- High risk players can sit out the 2020 season, and will be placed on the COVID-19 Related Injured List. Those who choose to sit out the season will be paid and will receive service time.
- Players who live with or are regularly in close contact with high risk individuals can also sit out, but they may not automatically receive pay and credit for service time. MLB is expected to make several accommodations on this front though, including situations with players who are expecting children during the season.
- Teams will identify high risk personal (people who, by virtue of their age and/or medical history, are at a materially higher risk of developing severe illness or complications from COVID-19 exposure) and afford them special accommodations such as separate entrances to the park, separate private spaces at a ball park, and allowing them to spend as little time at the park as is necessary to do their job.
- There will be limited media access to players, with video press conferences taking the place of one-on-one or scrums.
- Reporters will be allowed in stadiums but they will not be allowed near players.
- There will be no visiting broadcast teams, with the home broadcast crews providing a common feed to the visiting teams. Visiting broadcasters will call games remotely.