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, the AP reports. 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 deteriorate, all games could still be wiped out. “What happens when we all get it?" Milwaukee pitcher Brett Anderson tweeted Monday. This will be MLB's shortest season since 1878, a schedule of such brevity that some fans may question the legitimacy of stats and records. A typical season involves 162 games plus the post-season.
A day after the players' association rejected an 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. 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 between 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. Players will start reporting for 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. Each team will play 10 games against each of its four division rivals and 20 total games against the five clubs in the corresponding regional division in the other league. (Click for more details.)