After weeks of acrimonious talks between Major League Baseball franchises and the union that represents the players, the league will officially begin a 60-game season in late July.
“Major League Baseball is thrilled to announce that the 2020 season is on the horizon,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said late Tuesday night after the MLB Players Association announced it had accepted an operating manual setting out a set of health and safety protocols to keep teams and crews safe from the novel coronavirus.
Manfred announced Monday that the league would proceed with a coronavirus-shortened season this year after the players' union rejected a negotiated deal over a similar abbreviated season. Manfred unilaterally imposed the plan under the terms of an agreement reached with the players’ union back on March 26.
Players for all 30 teams will report to their home ballparks by July 1 for at least three weeks of pre-season training, instead of their usual spring training homes in Florida and Arizona, which are both undergoing a huge rise in the number of COVID-19 infections. The regular season, which will be the shortest in the sport’s modern history, will begin on either July 23 or 24.
All games will be played without fans present in the stands.
The players’ union rejected an earlier deal that would have expanded the number of playoff teams from 10 to 16, establishing a $25 million postseason players pool, forgiving $33 million in salary advances and the chance to receive 104 percent of their prorated salaries.
The bitterness between the owners and the union is a possible preview of the negotiations set to take place after the season over a new collective bargaining agreement.
Baseball’s traditional pre-season spring training period was abruptly cut short in mid-March as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the United States, and eventually shut down all professional, collegiate and secondary school athletic events. But the virus continues to impact all sports, including baseball, with five members of the Philadelphia Phillies franchise recently testing positive for the virus.