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Doubleheaders, expanded rosters and other things we’ll likely see when baseball begins

The 2020 MLB season will be different than any that has gone before.

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A bar outside Chase Field in Phoenix on Thursday, March 26
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The date that should have been Opening Day of the 2020 MLB season has come and gone without baseball due to the coronavirus outbreak.

This, you know. What we don’t know is when baseball will actually begin in 2020, or even if there will be a baseball season at all.

In recent days, baseball owners and players have been hard at work negotiating various issues regarding service time, salaries, the form a season might take and other topics relating to what baseball will look like in 2020.

Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich put together this summary of what’s been decided so far. The highlights include:

• The deal ensures players will hold final approval on scheduling; the league cannot unilaterally determine how games are played, or when. Both sides say they desire to play as many games as possible. The agreement also allows for the regular season to extend into October, providing 31 more possible dates.

• The postseason might be expanded and played, at least in part, at neutral sites.

• Transactions will be frozen when the deal becomes official. The union and league must agree on the date they can resume.

• Roster sizes are likely to expand at least for the start of the season coming off an abbreviated spring training, the way they did after the players returned from their strike in 1995.

Regarding roster sizes, this information became public after Rosenthal and Drellich’s article was published late Thursday:

The expanded rosters will allow more pitchers, which will be important if this proposal is instituted:

A huge issue will be how many games MLB can pack into a shortened schedule, and in a bid to get as close to the traditional 162 as possible, fans could be treated to more doubleheaders.

Limiting each game of those doubleheaders to just seven innings might also be on the table. At the very least, the outside-the-box idea could be “something we have to consider,” Toronto Blue Jays General Manager Ross Atkins said Wednesday in a conference call.

Others interviewed for the article linked above, including several major-league managers, were open to the idea of doubleheaders.

Now. You all know how I feel about doubleheaders, particularly split doubleheaders. But if MLB were to make these doubleheaders single-admission and have the games limited to seven innings, I think I could get behind that. Generally, most games slow down around the seventh inning, but often seven innings can be played in a little over two hours. Two games like that plus (say) 30 minutes in between could get a doubleheader like that completed in about five hours, rather than the 10-hour span between the start of a first game and the end of a second game in a split-admission doubleheader.

As for the rest of the ideas noted by Rosenthal and Drellich, I’m pretty much in favor of all of them.

Baseball through October 31? Sign me up. The weather in most northern cities is better in October than it is in April. The average high in Chicago on October 1 is 70 degrees, and even by October 31 it’s still 56, which is equivalent to the average high on April 9. Play more afternoon games in October and the weather will be (mostly) okay. You could even play a first round of postseason games in many northern cities, though a championship round would likely have to be at a warm-weather neutral site or in a stadium with a roof. Perhaps that could be done regionally — in other words, eastern teams could play in Toronto, midwestern teams in Milwaukee, etc.

It’s also been suggested that teams could play some October regular-season games at their spring-training sites, even though those parks hold far fewer fans than their regular stadiums.

Depending on the length of the season, one thing I’d like to see is whatever team becomes the “champion” of 2020 be given a special trophy (or “piece of metal,” as Rob Manfred called it) denoting this unusual year. That’s especially true if whatever “playoffs” are created are some sort of round-robin tournament instead of the usual division series, LCS and World Series. Superagent Scott Boras has proposed a full 162-game season with a neutral-site World Series around Christmas. That has some appeal, but then you’re also shortening the offseason for players, presuming the 2021 season is played as normal. Even that isn’t guaranteed at this uncertain time.

There was a report Thursday out of the UK, via The Sun, that the MLB London Series involving the Cubs and Cardinals scheduled for June 13-14 had been cancelled. No other media outlet has reported this and an MLB source told me Thursday nothing had been officially decided about these games. It does seem likely that they will be cancelled, or perhaps postponed until later in the year. Beyond that, if the MLB schedule begins (let’s say) in June. many or most of the games on the original schedule will likely be played on their existing dates, with games that were scheduled previous to the start date made up in October, or as parts of doubleheaders. This is why, if you look on the Cubs’ schedule page on their website, the games show as “postponed,” not “cancelled.” This screenshot is from this morning — it appears they’re postponing these games one at a time:

This is why I’m not concerned about ticket refunds or credits at this time. No one knows exactly what form the 2020 season will take. Thus it will likely be after that’s decided when teams, including the Cubs, issue information about refunds or credits for previously-purchased tickets, including season tickets. (Clicking on those green “ticket” links shown on the two Brewers games takes you to this page, with information from the Brewers. They’re not actually selling any tickets at this time.)

A reminder that here at BCB, we are going to continue to simulate the 2020 season, via the original schedule, using MLB The Show 20. Each simulated game will begin at 3 p.m. CT.

Hang in there in this unprecedented time in human history, be well, and we hope that we can have life, and baseball, back to normal as soon as possible.