The stadiums will be empty and health issues remain, but Major League Baseball announced its 2020 return Tuesday night.
The MLB Players Association tweeted out a response indicating that baseball will indeed have a 60-game season, the shortest since 1878.
All remaining issues have been resolved and Players are reporting to training camps.
— MLBPA Communications (@MLBPA_News) June 24, 2020
But the situation is evolving fast. And the schedule is still in flux.
Here’s what we know early on.
MLB 2020 season return-to-play plan in a nutshell
As per an MLB press release, players will report to camps by July 1 in their home cities. They will play a 60-game season starting July 23 or 24 in empty ballparks.
The 60 games will be compressed into 66 days. That puts the end of the regular season on Sept. 27.
The playoffs will not expand from 10 teams to 16 for the 2020 season, as was once thought. The playoff field will remain the same as it did in 2019 — three division-winners and two wild-cards per league.
The designated hitter will be universal for 2020. It is the first time ever that the National League will use the DH regularly.
Games that go into extras innings will start with a runner on second base beginning in the 10th inning,
To limit travel amid COVID-19, teams will play opponents only within their geographical region.
Each team will play 10 games against each of its four division rivals and four games against each of the five clubs in the corresponding division in the other league, according to details obtained by The Associated Press.
The Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets and New York Yankees will face each other often. This is normal for a shortened season.
Teams will be able to carry several additional players than normal to provide reserves in case players test positive for the coronavirus. Players testing positive will require at least two subsequent negative tests before being allowed to return. Testing is expected to be constant.
Phillies players test positive for COVID-19
The coronavirus issue is still front and center.
The Phillies shut down their spring-training complex last week after five players and three staff members tested positive. Thus the Phillies became the first big league team known to be struck by the outbreak.
MLB responded by shutting down all 30 spring training sites in Florida and Arizona, states that have seen a recent spike in coronavirus cases. They also ordered that they undergo thorough cleaning and sanitizing.
For the Mets and Yankees, a recent announcement of a travel ban will likely cause some conflicts for games between those teams and the Florida Marlins. Here is Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Twitter, speaking on behalf of Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey and Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut:
I am announcing with @GovMurphy and @GovNedLamont a joint travel advisory. All individuals traveling from states with significant community spread of COVID into NY, NJ, or CT must quarantine for 14 days.
This travel advisory is effective midnight tonight.
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) June 24, 2020
Today, @NYGovCuomo, @GovNedLamont, and I announced a joint incoming travel advisory – all visitors to our region from states highly-impacted by #COVID19 should self-quarantine for 14 days.
We MUST keep our region moving in the right direction and tri-state residents safe. pic.twitter.com/8jl9CCc3fg
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) June 24, 2020
The Mets and Yankees ballclubs responded via a press release that they are working with the NY State Health Department for a safe return from training camps in Florida:
“The Mets and Yankees have been in touch with Governor Cuomo’s office today and will work with the NY State Health Department on a continuing basis to coordinate the return of players from Florida to train in New York next week. Our two teams, as well as the State Health Commissioner, will work under Major League Baseball’s protocols and guidelines. We are all excited to bring baseball back to New York. Thank you, Governor Cuomo.”
Phillies, Mets and Yankees odds at NJ sportsbooks
In the MLB betting world, things are still in flux, too.
But futures bets are still on the board at most New Jersey online sportsbooks. Retail betting will pick up next week when Atlantic City casinos and racetracks reopen at 25% capacity.
As such, the Los Angeles Dodgers are the darling of the bookmakers. They are +375 to win the World Series at DraftKings Sportsbook. They are +380 at FanDuel Sportsbook.
Here’s how the World Series odds shape up at both sportsbooks for the Phillies, Mets and Yankees as of June 24:
The shortened season becomes a sprint rather than a marathon. It usually boosts weaker teams by keeping them in contention longer.
The world champion Washington Nationals started 19-31 last year. They would not qualify for the post-season if they began that way this year.
History lessons for the MLB 2020 season restart
When the agreement was announced, there was little celebratory reaction inside the league. The tweet did not represent a classic agreement. It merely acknowledged that commissioner Rob Manfred had the right to impose a 60-game season upon them, which he did.
By following his orders, players left themselves the option to file a grievance later against the league.
COVID-19 will force the league to deal with awkward logistics, as it has in previous work stoppages.
In 1981, the MLBPA went on strike after June 11 and games didn’t resume until Aug.10. For the only time in MLB history, playoff teams were decided by first-half and second-half division champions.
That was bad news for the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals, who had the highest winning percentage in the National League but did not make the playoffs. They each finished second in their division in each half.
The last labor stoppage occurred in 1994. It began on Aug. 11 and wiped out the entire postseason. There was no World Series champion.
It will be interesting to see how bettors embrace the 2020 campaign. That will depend upon tantalizing props and in-game wagers.
Like all other sports recovering from the pandemic, bettors will swing into some kind of rhythm. And will likely be just happy that there’s baseball to bet on in NJ once again.