When will the MLB season start in 2020? Key dates, new divisions, schedule & more to know for Opening Day

Baseball is (almost) back.

It’s been a messy, gross, disgusting two months of negotiating between the MLBPA and MLB, with both sides agreeing to disagree over prorated salaries and Rob Manfred set to impose a 60-game schedule for the 2020 season.

In all, it caps off a months-long “will-they-won’t-they” storyline fit for a terrible TV sitcom, featuring lots of public bitterness from both sides. With Manfred imposing a season, we’ll have Major League Baseball in 2020, unless something insane happens between now and July 29. Which, well, is a major possibility this year.

There are many logistical hurdles that remain, including travel, lodging and travel restrictions still taking hold of different states and two neighboring countries. 

When does the MLB season start in 2020?

MLB Opening Day 2020 is slated for around July 24. Players are expected to report to spring (summer) training by July 1, as long as players agree to that date and also to the health and safety protocols by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, June 23.

MLB schedule 2020: How many games will they play?

As implemented by Rob Manfred, the 2020 MLB season will be 60 games long (barring any kind of stoppage for any reason) and features three divisions. Details of the schedule are unknown at this time, but given that the divisions will be geographically aligned, then travel shouldn’t be too much of an issue between series and cities.

MLB health and safety protocol

MLB sent a 67-page proposal to the MLBPA in May. The details need to be hammered out — and it’s what the MLBPA will be voting on on June 23 — but some of the known facts from that proposal are as follows:

In all, it seems pretty pie-in-the-sky to try and enforce some of these rules, but hey, at least they’re trying. (On paper.)

New MLB divisions for 2020

There is a three-division proposal for the 2020 season based on geography, which is supposed to alleviate the travel burdens for teams. While the schedule won’t be revealed until official divisions are set, expect them to look something like this, based on the pre-existing AL and NL circuits:

East:

Central

West

Will fans be allowed at MLB games?

On June 4, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reported that MLB would defer to local governments as to whether or not fans would be allowed at games. That would bode well for states like Texas, who are reopening despite rising numbers of coronavirus cases and is currently allowing up to 50 percent stadium capacity.

Speculatively, it’s difficult to imagine fans in MLB stadiums this season on a greater scale, considering the coronavirus pandemic is currently not contained in most states.

What happened between MLB and MLBPA?

Take a deep breath. Saying both sides were arguing over money matters is accurate, but if you’re simply blaming the players for the lack of a long season is pretty inaccurate.

Here’s how the situation broke down:

In March, MLB and MLBPA agreed to a deal that would pay the players their full prorated salaries over the course of the season, no matter the length of games that would be played. Reportedly, the agreement to pay the players those salaries hinged upon whether or not there would be fans in the stands. Once it was apparent that it would be unsafe to play games with crowds, the infighting between both sides began.

With owners losing a bit of revenue from not having ticket and concession sales, MLB front offices wanted players to take bigger paycuts for however long the season was played: MLB owners wanted players to take less-than prorated salaries for the amount of games played. While they increased the number of games in different offers, their request that the players play for less than their prorated salaries was scoffed at by the MLBPA.

After lots of back-and-forth and MLB ownership not meeting the players’ salary requests, the MLBPA eventually threw down the gauntlet: after one of the last failed attempts of a deal from MLB, the players gave Rob Manfred a “When and Where” ultimatum, essentially asking for the commissioner to impose a season. 

If you’re going to place the onus of the blame on the players in not getting a deal done, in the words of Lee Corso, not so fast, my friend.

The reason for the ultimatum is twofold; First, the players were, and had been, ready to play. After all, they were the ones asking for as long a season as possible, including an 114-game proposal at one point.

The second reason: players were tired of being shortchanged by ownership, who they believe were negotiating in bad faith. Asking Manfred to impose a season was one way to gain a little bit of leverage in whatever grievance they may file (which they will) after a season gets underway. The fact that ownership balked at the idea of wanting a longer season should be proof enough for anyone following along that the players weren’t in the wrong here. When you add in the fact that in their last proposal, MLB was asking for its players to waive its right to file a grievance should prove that they

In the end, the owners got exactly what they wanted after a month of dribbling out the clock: the players look like the villains, they get a short season with 37 percent salaries for the players and they get to keep their books closed to the MLBPA.

Really, this is all a precursor to the impending labor dispute once the current CBA expires following the 2021 season. Hopefully a deal gets done so we have a 2022 season.

MLB playoffs 2020

With MLB imposing a season, expanded playoffs are off the table for 2020 and 2021. For now, the normal 10-team format will be underway after the conclusion of the regular season.

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