While the 2020 Major League Baseball season has not yet started because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the league is growing more confident that playing will be feasible. MLB has also started to formulate plans and a timeline for getting a season underway.
Here's the key takeaway from Ken Rosenthal's wide-ranging recent report in The Athletic:
"The most realistic time range for Opening Day — somewhere between mid-June and July 4, in the view of most officials — would allow for an 80- to 100-game regular season, with the schedule running through October. An expanded postseason at neutral sites might follow, with the World Series ending in late November or early December."
The goal for both owners and players is to maximize the number of games in the season and thus maximize revenues. At this point, playing half of the 162-game slate feels ambitious, but with larger rosters and perhaps more frequent scheduled doubleheaders it's theoretically doable. Obviously, any postseason that stretches into the vicinity of Thanksgiving and beyond is going to require the use of ballparks in warm-weather locales or at least with retractable roofs. With cold-weather, outdoor teams like the Yankees, Twins, Nationals, Cubs, Mets, Phillies, Indians and others plausibly aiming for contention, arranging for neutral sites in advance will be a necessity.
As for breaking ground on the 2020 regular season, CBS Sports' R.J. Anderson recently reported that MLB is considering opening in three locations -- Florida, Texas, and Arizona -- with pools of teams in each location. That's still very much in play, as is, per Rosenthal, an expanded suite of early locations. The hope is that eventually teams will be able to transition back to their usual home ballparks, as stay-at-home orders are lifted across the country. There's of course no guarantee that fans will be permitted to attend any games, even late in the season, but that's a matter that will be dictated by the virus itself.
The next step will be formulating a list of one-off structural adjustments -- necessitated by the compressed schedule and reduced revenues -- for MLB to present to the Players' Association (MLBPA) for approval. As Rosenthal notes, the players have already agreed to prorated salaries for the 2020 season but owners might press for further concessions, especially if games are played without fans in attendance. According to Rosenthal, MLB will wait until there's some level of clarity before presenting the MLBPA with any specific proposals.
The key takeaway is that, while the specifics are unknown and very much in flux, it's looking increasingly likely that we'll have a 2020 season of some kind in MLB. Barring the unexpected, that season should get underway by the middle of summer.