What You Need To Know: MLB's Return
It's Opening Day of an MLB season unlike any other. Here's everything you need to know, from the modified 60-game schedule to the new rules and much more.
How will the schedule work?
Every team will play 10 games each vs. the other four squads in their division, totaling 40 games.
Teams will also play 20 interleague games against their corresponding geographic division (AL East vs. NL East, AL Central vs. NL Central, etc.).
Opening Day features two blockbuster matchups, with the Yankees visiting the defending champion Nationals at 7 p.m. ET, followed by Giants at Dodgers, both on ESPN.
The remaining teams will open their seasons on Friday, July 24.
What are the rule changes?
Both leagues will use the designated hitter for the 2020 season. In addition, all relief pitchers are required to face a minimum of three batters (unless the inning ends).
In extra innings, teams will begin with a runner on second base, a rule borrowed from minor league baseball.
What are the health and safety protocols?
Players and team members not participating in the game must sit in the stands, separated by at least 6 feet.
Celebratory contact is forbidden — no high-fives, fist bumps or hugs — although teams are finding creative solutions.
No spitting or chewing of either tobacco or sunflower seeds is permitted, and distance between baserunners, fielders, coaches and umpires on the field will be encouraged.
Baseballs will be discarded after they have been touched by several athletes, and postgame showers and carpooling will be discouraged.
Players will have their temperature checked throughout the day and will be tested for COVID-19 multiple times per week. If an athlete tests positive, they must quarantine immediately and cannot return to the diamond without two negative tests.
What does the postseason look like?
The regular season is set to end on Sept. 27.
The postseason structure was expected to stay the same, with five teams from each league (the three divisional champions and two Wild Card squads), a Wild Card round, best-of-five Division Series matchups, and the best-of-seven ALCS and NLCS ahead of the World Series.
However, before first pitch on Opening Day, the MLBPA voted to expand the playoff structure from 10 teams to 16, which is subject to approval from the owners.
ESPN's Marly Rivera offered details on seeding:
"The first three 'seeds' in each league will go to regular season division winners. The next three 'seeds' (4-6) will go to the teams who finished in second place; 'seeds' 7-8 will go to the remaining teams with the best records. If tiebreakers are needed, arrangements will be made with no additional games to be played."
What's happening with the Toronto Blue Jays?
This week, the Canadian government announced that it would not allow teams from the United States to cross the border and play games at Rogers Centre in Toronto.
The Blue Jays reportedly had a deal with the Pirates to play at Pittsburgh's PNC Park, but that fell apart when the Pennsylvania Department of Health would not approve the plan.
Toronto is reportedly considering a similar solution in Baltimore, with a chance the Blue Jays will have to play all of their games on the road.
Who might win it all?
The MLB.com Power Rankings place the Los Angeles Dodgers at the top of the heap, with the New York Yankees coming in second.
According to FOX Bet, both the Dodgers and Yankees have a projected win total of 38.5 for the regular season.
The Yankees are favored to win the World Series (+350), with the Dodgers right behind them (+375). The defending champion Nationals are +1600.
Anything else I should know?
FOX will feature its first ever quadruple header on Saturday, July 25, to celebrate 25 years as America's home for baseball. Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. ET that day, with the Brewers and Cubs leading off.
For now, though, baseball fans across the world will be counting the hours until MLB returns.