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MLB Starts Off 2020 Season with Rule Changes and Covid-19 Precautions

Baseball

Baseball is back, baby! It’s Opening Day in the MLB, and even though the Toronto Blue Jays don’t have anywhere to play, we’re still pumped that baseball’s finally back.

July 23, 2020
MARK BLINCH/GETTY IMAGES
MARK BLINCH/GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: Baseball is back, baby! It’s Opening Day in the MLB, and even though the Toronto Blue Jays don’t have anywhere to play, we’re still pumped that baseball’s finally back.

Wait, what?: While every other team will be playing their home games at their home stadium, the Jays still don’t have a place to play. After their request to play at the Rogers Centre in Toronto was denied by the federal government, the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are part of the National League (NL), kindly offered to share their home stadium, PNC Park, with their American League (AL) rivals. But the Pennsylvania Department of Health said, “How about no.”

  • The department said that because of the alarming increase in COVID-19 cases in the region, they just couldn’t approve allowing additional travelers in and out of the city. Fair play.

So, where does that leave the Jays?: Now the Jays will have to explore one of their three other contingency plans. If they can’t find a major league home, they’ll likely have to play at their minor league affiliate stadium in Buffalo, NY, or at their Spring Training park in Dunedin, FL. The Jays’ first “home” game is July 29th, so they better make it snappy.

Okay, now tell me about the season: You got it, but first, some basics. There are 30 teams in the MLB, and the league is divided into the National League (NL) and the American League (AL), which are further divided into three divisions: Central, East and West.

  • This MLB regular season will be a little weird, but still perfectly good (just like a two-headed carrot). Instead of the usual 162 games, they’re playing only 60 (which we’re actually fine with, TBH), and the league has introduced a few new COVID-19–inspired rule changes (including no finger licking...seriously).

Speaking of COVID-19, what’s the travel plan?: Of the 60 games, 40 will be against divisional opponents (each division has five teams) and the other 20 will be against opponents from the other league’s geographic counterpart (AL East vs. NL East, etc.), to cut down on travel.

  • And it all kicks off today with the defending champion Washington Nationals taking on the New York Yankees in D.C. (after America’s favorite doc, Dr. Fauci, throws the ceremonial opening pitch) and runs until the end of September. From there, the best 10 teams will move on to the postseason in October.

Who should I watch out for?: There are two heavy favorites to win the World Series: the Yankees and their cross-country rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

  • Both teams stacked their rosters in the offseason, with the Yankees signing star pitcher (and new dad!) Gerrit Cole, and the Dodgers signing star right fielder Mookie Betts (who, just yesterday, agreed to a jaw-dropping $365 million, 12-season extension).

Tell me straight: do the Jays have a chance?: Honestly, not really. But with a young roster, who really knows? New pitcher Hyun-jin Ryu, who the Jays picked up in the offseason, was the earned run average (ERA) leader last season and should be exactly who the Jays need on the mound.