When the history books are written, 2020 will be one for the ages. Social changes coupled with COVID-19 have touched every corner of the world, and Major League Baseball is no exception. The good news: A detailed plan is in place for the league to resume play at the end of July. Alex Rodriguez recently discussed the details with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.
MLB’s modified season
To understand the context of the interview, details ESPN, it’s helpful to understand the modified structure of the 2020 baseball season. The season is set to begin July 23rd and run until September 27th. After the appended regular season, there will be a World Series in October.
2020 will be the shortest league schedule in 120 years. There will be a total of 60 games, 40 of which will be against division opponents to reduce travel and the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, the roster has been reduced to 26 players for the bulk of the season and will be expanded to 28 players for postseason play.
Alex Rodriguez says he will announce from his living room
On June 26th, Rodriguez sat down and did a remote interview with Wolf Blitzer to address how the season would be affected by all these changes.
One notable aspect is that there won’t be any fans allowed in the stadium; the league is actively dissuading fans from congregating outside stadiums during the games as well. Social distancing is a key part of the MLB’s strategy.
Rodriguez says, “We’re still getting information. I work with ESPN Sunday Night Baseball, and we’re not sure if I’m going to be on location at Yankee Stadium or Citi Field or I’m going to be in my home with my kids doing this.” Blitzer answers, “So you’ll have a live feed and you’ll just be broadcasting it from home is that a possibility?”
“That’s exactly right,” Rodriguez responds. Safety and social distancing are the names of the game with this strange, truncated season. But beyond CDC guidelines, just how sweeping are the changes?
MLB’s 160-page rulebook
A 160-page rulebook that players must memorize accompanies the MLB season’s overall structural changes. Many of the rules are designed to encourage additional social distancing. For instance, players can no longer chew and spit anything — tobacco, gum, sunflower seeds, and more — on the field.
Players cannot have any kind of communal food in the clubhouse or dugout either. While not outright prohibited, showering in the locker room is strongly discouraged. As Rodriguez put it in the interview, it’s like playing American Legion ball and driving home in your pinstripes.
Coaches and players must maintain a six-foot distance from the umpires, so no arguing in their faces over a bad call. Players also must maintain a six-foot distance from one another in the clubhouse. One of the more interesting rules involves game balls. The league expects to go through roughly 40 dozen balls per game, explains Rodriguez, as they now must throw out each ball after use.
Not every rule change is geared toward social distancing. Some change the pace and quality of the game. For example, teams must designate pitchers and field players. Pitchers also cannot bat until they’ve played 20 innings. The designated hitter rule is back, at least for the shortened season. In the case of extra innings, the at-bat team starts with a runner on second.
The new rule book is chock-full of small, obscure rules like these, things that change the fundamental game as well as the public’s consumption of baseball. It’s going to be an interesting ride, but according to Rodriguez, the league is up to the task.