Play ball! At last, MLB and players agree on 60-game, 66-day sprint
Detroit — After 103 days of uncertainty, days fraught with polarizing angst and animosity between owners and players, Major League Baseball is back.
Finally, after numerous proposals and counter-proposals, the two sides agreed on a 60-game in 66-day schedule beginning July 23-24, with players heading to training camps on July 1. The Tigers will hold camp at Comerica Park, using Toledo’s Fifth Third Field as a secondary site.
An official schedule is expected to be presented to the Players’ Association within 72 hours, but teams will play 40 games within their division and 20 interleague games against their geographic rivals. The Tigers, for example, would play interleague games against teams from the National League Central Division.
Commissioner Rob Manfred and the owners implemented a 60-game schedule on Monday, after the Players’ Association rejected the owners’ final proposal on Saturday. The league gave the players a 5 p.m. deadline Tuesday to agree to report for training by July 1 and to hammer out a 100-plus page manual of health and safety protocols.
The players quickly agreed to begin camp by July 1, but the health and safety issues weren’t resolved until around 8:30 p.m.
In a statement by the union: “All remaining issues have been resolved and players are reporting to training camps.”
The league-ordered freeze on player transactions will end Friday at noon. Teams are required to submit a 60-man player pool by 3 p.m. Sunday. Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire told The Detroit News on Monday that though it wasn’t etched in stone, he expected the club’s top pitching prospects — Casey Mize, Matt Manning, Tarik Skubal and Alex Faedo — to be in that pool.
Teams will be allowed to start the season with 30 active players. After two weeks, it gets trimmed to 28. After four weeks, 26.
Teams will also be allowed to carry a taxi squad. Three players off the taxi squad can travel to road games, including one catcher. Third baseman Spencer Torkelson, the Tigers’ first overall pick in the draft earlier this month, is a candidate for the taxi squad.
Also, the trade deadline will be moved up from July 31 to Aug. 31.
The post-season format remains unchanged — 10 teams.
The rules will be a little different, too. Extra innings will start with a runner at second. That runner would be the player who made the last out in the previous inning. Also, for the first time in history, the National League will have, for 2020 only, the designated hitter.
Also, the three-hitter rule that was instituted before the shutdown — pitchers must face at least three batters per outing — remains in effect.
The one thing that could still curtail the season, of course, is the coronavirus. Players will all be tested first thing when they arrive at camp and, as the 100-page health and safety manual suggests, the league is taking every precaution.
Still, it was reported Tuesday that Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon and three others had tested positive after workouts at Coors Field. The league last week shut down all spring training sites in Florida and Arizona.
Among a multitude of things, including standing apart in the dugout and clubhouse (as much as possible), players are encouraged not to hug, high-five or share fist-bumps with teammates or opponents. Spitting seeds and chewing tobacco — well, spitting period — will be frowned upon.
In fact, pitchers will be encouraged to keep a wet rag with them on the mound to keep from licking their fingers.
MLB will have the power to relocate teams to neutral sites for health and safety reasons — regular season and postseason.
It’s a brave new, fan-less world, for sure. Much more information and details will become available Wednesday and Thursday.