Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

Baseball’s back: MLB sets 60-game schedule

Play to resume July 23 or July 24 in empty ballparks

NEW YORK — Major League Baseball issued a 60-game schedule Tuesday night that will start July 23 or 24 in empty ballparks as the sport tries to push ahead amid the coronavirus following months of acrimony.

A dramatically altered season with games full of new rules was the final result of failed financial negotiations. But for fans eager to see any baseball this year, at least now they can look forward to opening day.

The announcement by MLB came while more players continue to test positive for the virus — at least seven on the Philadelphia Phillies alone. And a stark realization remained, that if health situations deteriorated, all games could still be wiped out.

One day after the players’ association rejected an economic agreement and left open the possibility of a grievance seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages, the bickering sides agreed on an operations manual. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred then unilaterally imposed the schedule, his right under a March agreement with the union.

In a twist, the sides expanded the designated hitter to games involving National League teams for the first time and instituted the radical innovation of starting extra innings with a runner on second base.

Playoff teams remain at 10 for now — there is still talk of a possible expansion. The rejected deal had called for 16 teams.

Players will start reporting for the resumption of training on July 1. It remains to be seen which players will report back to work — high-risk individuals are allowed to opt out and still receive salary and service time, but others who sit out get neither money nor the service credit needed for eligibility for free agency and salary arbitration.

Each team will play 10 games against each of its four division rivals and four games vs. each of the five clubs in the corresponding division in the other league, according to details obtained by The Associated Press.

A team is scheduled to make only one trip to each city it visits in MLB’s shortest season since 1878. a schedule of such brevity that some fans may question the legitimacy of records.

No matter what, the season will be among the most unusual ever for a sport that takes pride that the race for titles is a marathon and not a sprint: Washington started 19-31 and 27-33 last year but finished 93-69 to earn a wild card and won a seven-game World Series for its first title.

The trade deadline will be Aug. 31 and the deadline to be in an organization for post-season eligibility is Sept. 15. Teams can resume making trades Friday, when rosters will no longer be frozen.

Active rosters will be 30 during the first two weeks of the season, 28 during the second two weeks and 26 after that. They will not expand to 28 on Sept. 1, as originally intended this year.

With no minor leagues, teams would be allowed to retain 60 players each, including a taxi squad. Up to three players from the taxi squad can travel with a team to a game, and one of the three must be a catcher.

MLB is keeping the planned innovation that pitchers must face three batters or finish a half inning —- players refused to agree a year ago but also waived their right to block.

The injured list minimum for pitchers at 10 days rather than revert to 15, as initially intended.

Public opinion shredded both sides as they locked in a ferocious financial battle during a pandemic that has led to more than 120,000 deaths and 2.3 million infections in the U.S. and led to a 14.7% unemployment rate, the highest since the Great Depression.

MLB originally hoped to be the first U.S. major league to return, with an 82-game schedule starting around the Fourth of July, but public sniping broke out between management and players who distrust teams’ claims of economic losses following years of franchise appreciation. MLB claimed that without gate-related revenue it would lose $640,000 for each additional regular-season game, a figure the union disputed.

MLB became exasperated with the union’s leadership team, headed by former All-Star first baseman Tony Clark and Bruce Meyer, a litigator hired in August 2018. Manfred and Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem were infuriated when Clark said he considered the result of a one-on-one meeting with Manfred last week a proposal rather than what MLB termed a framework for a deal.

Rather than play 162 games over 186 days, the season will be 60 games over 66 or 67 days, depending on whether there is a nationally televised Thursday night opener. It is scheduled to end Sept. 27, which leaves little margin to make up September rainouts.

Players are being given staggered reporting times over several days for intake screening. The time will be used for coronavirus testing ahead of the resumption of workouts, which were stopped March 12 due to the pandemic.

READ MORE: 40 players, staff test positive for COVID-19

Because of an uptick of infections in Florida and Arizona’s summer heat, 28 teams currently are leaning toward training in their regular-season ballparks. Detroit remained partial to Lakeland, Florida, and Toronto was hoping to gain government permission to work out at Rogers Centre.

Under terms of the deal the sides reached on March 26, which was to have been opening day, players would receive prorated portions of their salaries if the 60-game schedule is not cut short by the virus. Salaries originally totalled $4 billion, and the prorated portion of about 37% reduces pay to $1.48 billion.

Salaries were to have ranged from $563,500 at the minimum to $36 million for Mike Trout and Gerrit Cole at the top, but the spread would now be from $208,704 to $13,333,333.

MLB initially had sought last month in its initial economic proposal to reduce pay to about $1 billion, and players vowed not to give up full prorated pay and proposed a 114-game schedule that amounted to $2.8 billion.

The relationship deteriorated back to the level of the labour wars that led to eight work stoppages from 1972-95, and the union has threatened a grievance claiming MLB didn’t fulfil the provision in the March deal requiring the longest season economically feasible, conditioned by several other provisions. MLB would claim the union bargained in bad faith, and the case would be argued before arbitrator Mark Irvings.

That would be a prelude to the expiration of the current labour contract on Dec. 1, 2021, which likely will be followed by a lockout.

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter 

BaseballMLB

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Interior Health reports 16 new COVID-19 cases

423 cases remain active in the region

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

HOPE Okanagan’s Stay at Home Gala will raise funds to help serve Kelowna and Vernon’s vulnerable. (HOPE Okanagan)
Non-profit hosts virtual gala to support Okanagan’s vulnerable

HOPE Okanagan wants to raise awareness and support for those struggling in the streets

Ice rescue on Shannon Lake. Phil McLachlan, Kelowna Capital News.
‘Ice season is over’; West Kelowna crews rescue man from icy lake

A man in his 60’s was pulled from the waters of Shannon Lake after falling through

Summerhill Pyramid Winery. (Contributed)
Fear of ‘hotel in a vineyard’ prompts Kelowna council to defer culinary school decision

City council needs assurance the educational facility proposed at Summerhill Winery will be used as stated

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. has cleared the Lumby RCMP of any wrongdoing after a missing person was found deceased in December 2020. (IIO photo)
Police watchdog says North Okanagan RCMP played no role in missing person’s death

The body was found by a family member shortly after the RCMP suspended their search

The images are of Bald Eagles feeding.
Photos: Birds of prey

Princeton photographer captures compelling photos of a Bald Eagle breakfast

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

An off-duty Vernon Taxi driver got a 24-hour licence suspension, vehicle towed, after failing a standardized field sobriety test around 1:40 a.m. Tuesday, March 2, 2021. (John E Green - Facebook)
Vernon Taxi towed after driver suspected impaired

Off-duty cab towed from McDonald’s drive-thru early Tuesday morning

Kamloops This Week
Cause of Kamloops landfill fire may never be known

Fire investigators are dealing with too much destruction in too large an area

Canadian Mental Health Association staff and volunteers experienced increased Crisis Line calls with COVID-related concerns. (CMHA photo)
North Okanagan MP pushes for national suicide hotline

Mel Arnold seeks support from North Okanagan-Shuswap municipalities for 988 hotline

Most Read