Play ball (with appropriate distancing)!
MLB owners and players have finally come to an agreement on how to play the 2020 season. Opening Day for the 60-game season will be July 23 or 24 in teams’ home ballparks—and it’s going to be weird.
Even beyond the truncated timeline, the coronavirus has forced MLB to make a variety of changes to how the game will be played and how the players will have to behave. The league’s primary concern is mitigating the spread of the virus, but squeezing in 60 games with limited off days after an extended layoff and abbreviated “spring” training creates additional risk for player injuries.
Those dual player-health concerns have led the league to implement several rules that would have seemed unimaginable back in February.
First there are the changes to the rules of the game. There will be a universal DH. Games that go past nine innings will start each additional inning with a runner on second base. The rule instituted this winter limiting position player pitching appearances to blowouts won’t go into effect after all. Active rosters will be expanded to 30 players at the start of the season and eventually be contracted to 26 as the season progresses.
And then there’s this idea, necessitated by the lack of a minor league season.
Where things really get wild is with the health protocols. The first draft of the health manual was 67 pages, but the final copy clocks in at a whopping 101 pages. It’s that long because the league really did think of everything. (You can read the whole thing here if you really want.)
They’re really, really concerned with players touching the same surfaces as other players. This is from The Athletic’s Jayson Stark:
All hitters will now have to bring their own pine-tar rags, bat donuts and other equipment to and from the on-deck circle — and will have to retrieve their own caps, gloves and sunglasses from the dugout if an inning ends with them on base or batting. All pitchers will now have to bring their own rosin bag to the mound and use only their own baseballs for bullpen sessions. And baseballs used in batting practice can be used only that day, then need to be cleaned and sanitized, and not be re-used for at least five days. So one thing is clear: Teams are going to have to have thousands of baseballs in the old storage closet.
Similarly, pitchers are not allowed to transmit their germs to the baseball by licking their fingers and are instead allowed to carry a “wet rag” to moisten their fingers on the rubber.
Spitting is out, too.
There are also rules requiring physical distancing when practical.
This might be the wildest one, though. I seriously thought it might be a joke until I read the whole rule book entry in the Hosuton Chronicle.
“Players or managers who leave their positions to argue with umpires, come within six feet of an umpire or opposing player or manager for the purpose of argument, or engage in altercations on the field are subject to immediate ejection and discipline, including fines and suspensions,” the full entry reads.
Six feet isn’t a magic number, and viral droplets are definitely going to spread farther than that if you’re yelling, but every little thing helps.
If MLB is going to complete this season, as COVID-19 cases spike in areas where some of its teams play, it’s going to have to avoid a widespread outbreak. That means players will have to be just as cautious during their time away from the ballpark as they are under the guidelines of the 101-page protocol. We’ll see what happens.
No hate crime against Bubba
The noose found in Bubba Wallace’s garage was a misunderstanding, the FBI found. The rope had been tied as early as October to make it easier to pull the door closed.
It’s fortunate that Wallace wasn’t the target of an act of hate in this case, but it shouldn’t cheapen the display of unity from NASCAR drivers on Monday. Wallace has still been the victim of racist attacks. Just look at all the people who waved Confederate flags outside Talladega this weekend as a response to the NASCAR ban that he fought for. Or read his Twitter mentions, where people are accusing him of perpetrating a Jussie Smollett–style hoax even though he wasn’t made aware of the alleged noose until after NASCAR had decided to investigate it.
He’s going to be the target of even more hate now because of how this incident raised his national profile, which is why NASCAR needs to continue to stand by him.
The best of SI
Ten ways sports will be different when they come back. ... Novak Djokovic’s positive coronavirus test is the result of his own hubris. ... The NBA is sticking to its return plan despite the worsening situation in Florida.
Around the sports world
Ben Roethlisberger opened up about previous struggles with alcohol and pornography addictions. ... The Lakers are about to become a fascinating spectacle if they follow through on signing J.R. Smith. ... Former sports radio host Craig Carton is out of jail and could be headed for a reunion with his old station.
Those bears were as scared of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix as he was of them
How pliable do you have to be to avoid getting coronavirus?
Being famous doesn’t stop you from spreading the virus
Oskar Lindblom hit the ice with his teammates for the first time since being diagnosed with cancer
Who wants Chad Johnson’s money?
The ONLY crotch-shaving device officially endorsed by the San Francisco 49ers
An opera house in Barcelona reopened with all the seats filled by plants. ... A man in China who drank 10 beers, fell asleep and went 18 hours without using the bathroom, ended up rupturing his bladder. ... Amazon might be trying to add live TV to Prime Video.
It sounds like an ’80s video game
I need this Korean garlic bread
A good song
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