THE PLAN — IF WE MAKE IT THAT FAR

The coro­n­avirus may yet un­ravel every­thing, but for now, MLB has a new 2020 sched­ule

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS -

It will be a Ma­jor League Base­ball sea­son like no other. Then again, with the pan­demic show­ing no signs of eas­ing up, and with early glitches af­fect­ing the coro­n­avirus test­ing process, there might be a bet­ter chance of some­one pitch­ing a no­hit­ter on Open­ing Day than of us ac­tu­ally hav­ing Open­ing Day.

The Na­tion­als and Astros can­celed their work­outs Mon­day when their test re­sults from Fri­day never ar­rived. The Blue Jays took a char­tered flight to Toronto on Sun­day night but had to leave 12 play­ers be­hind at their spring train­ing com­plex in Dunedin, Florida, when one of their play­ers tested pos­i­tive and the oth­ers had been in di­rect con­tact with him. And the Ath­let­ics still hadn’t had their first full-squad work­out by Mon­day af­ter­noon.

Also Mon­day, vet­eran out­fielder Nick Markakis of the Braves was the lat­est player to opt out of the sea­son, slug­ger Joey Gallo of the Rangers was the lat­est star to test pos­i­tive, and Na­tion­als gen­eral man­ager Mike Rizzo was the lat­est ex­ec­u­tive to ex­press his frus­tra­tion with the test­ing process.

Yet, with MLB ac­knowl­edg­ing there have been “un­fore­seen dif­fi­cul­ties,” a sea­son still awaits. So, ready or not, here we come. The up­dated 2020 sched­ule was re­leased Mon­day night, and the sea­son will be­gin July 23 with the de­fend­ing World Series cham­pion Na­tion­als host­ing the Yan­kees at 6:08 p.m. in a na­tion­ally tele­vised game on ESPN.

It will be the first time the Nats hoist the World Series flag at Na­tion­als Park, al­beit with their fans hav­ing to cheer from in front of their TV sets be­cause they won’t be per­mit­ted in the sta­dium.

The sto­ried ri­valry be­tween the Dodgers and Gi­ants wastes no time, with the first meet­ing at 9:08 p.m. as the sec­ond game of the na­tion­ally tele­vised dou­ble­header.

The most unique game of the sea­son will be Aug. 8 be­tween the Car­di­nals and White Sox; they’ll play in Dy­ersville, Iowa, where “Field of Dreams” was filmed. The 8,000-seat sta­dium is fin­ished, but it’s un­known whether tick­ets will be sold.

The Yan­kees orig­i­nally were sup­posed to play against the White Sox, but the 60-game sched­ule has teams play­ing 40 games in their own di­vi­sion and 20 in­ter­league games against teams in the cor­re­spond­ing geo­graphic di­vi­sion from the other league. The sched­ule is de­signed to greatly re­duce travel, but the con­se­quence is that it cre­ates dis­par­ity.

Teams will play 10 games against each di­vi­sion op­po­nent, but with only three series against each, the home-road split will not be equal. Some teams will play three home games against an op­po­nent and seven on the road. The Gi­ants will play seven games against the Dodgers at Dodger Sta­dium and only three against them in San Fran­cisco. The Cubs, who had the third-worst road record a year ago at 33-48, play seven times against the Reds in Cincin­nati but only three times at Wrigley Field. Gen­tle­men, start your complaints. The in­ter­league games will cre­ate more fair­ness. Teams will play 10 games at home and 10 on the road in in­ter­league play. Each

team plays six games against their nat­u­ral in­ter­league ri­val and four apiece against the other teams in the op­po­site league.

The re­vised sched­ule pro­vides six days off for all but the four teams who play July 23. They’ll have seven days off. On the fi­nal day of the sea­son, Sept. 27, all 30 teams will start their games at the same time, 2 p.m.

Jackie Robin­son Day, which tra­di­tion­ally has been held on April 15, now will be Aug. 28, the an­niver­sary of the March on Wash­ing­ton, as well as the date Robin­son first met with Brook­lyn Dodgers ex­ec­u­tive Branch Rickey to dis­cuss play­ing in the big leagues.

MLB also will cel­e­brate the 100th an­niver­sary of the Ne­gro

Leagues on Aug. 16. Roberto Cle­mente Day will be Sept. 9.

The first na­tion­ally tele­vised games on Fox will be July 25, with Brew­ers-Cubs, Giants­Dodgers and Yan­kees-Na­tion­als. The first edi­tion of “Sun­day Night Base­ball” on ESPN will be a dou­ble­header July 26 with the Braves and Yan­kees at 6:08 p.m. and the Gi­ants and Dodgers at 9:08 p.m.

That’s the plan, any­way, with the wild-card games start­ing Sept. 29 and the World Series be­gin­ning Oct. 20.

We’ll see if a sea­son is even pos­si­ble in a year in which all 30 teams, no mat­ter what di­vi­sion or league, will play one com­mon op­po­nent every sin­gle day on the sched­ule: COVID-19.

Astros sec­ond base­man Jose Al­tuve takes five dur­ing prac­tice Sun­day in Hous­ton. On Mon­day, the Astros and Na­tion­als can­celed their work­outs be­cause of prob­lems get­ting play­ers’ coro­n­avirus test re­sults from days ear­lier. DAVID J. PHILLIP/AP

BOB NIGHT­EN­GALE Twit­ter: @BNight­en­gale

BRYNN AN­DER­SON/AP

The Braves’ Nick Markakis (right, at camp Sun­day) opted out of the sea­son Mon­day. Team­mate Fred­die Free­man (not pic­tured) is bat­tling COVID-19.

AP

The Rangers’ Joey Gallo be­came one of the lat­est MLB stars to test pos­i­tive.

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