UPDATE: MLB is officially coming back.
Now that it appears there will be Major League Baseball for 2020 -- players still need to sign off on a few issues -- what can we expect from the blink-and-you'll-miss-it 60-game season?
Some questions and answers:
1. How soon will Spring Training II begin and where will it be held for the Red Sox?
Tentative plans call for players to report on or around July 1, which is next Monday. That seems ambitious, since it will require players to come from all over North America, the Caribbean and Asia. That's a lot of details to arrange, especially in regions where the coronavirus has impacted normal life and made airplane travel more problematic.
The Red Sox are set to hold their second spring training at Fenway Park. They had discussed the merits of returning to Fenway South in Fort Myers, since that would have offered more locker room facilities and, importantly, many more playing fields. The Sox could have 50 or more players on hand (major league rosters will expand to at least 30 players from the original 26, plus a "taxi squad'' of another 20 players established to provide depth for the major league team) and Fenway South would have been better in that regard.
But the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases in Florida -- and along the Gulf Coast in particular, where Fort Myers is located -- made that completely impractical.
Now, the Sox will have two clubhouses (both somewhat cramped by major league standards) and one field. That will make it tough to get work in for 50 players. The Red Sox will quite likely need to utilize other facilities in the area. They could take advantage of one of the many college complexes in the area (they've utilized both Harvard and BC for their winter rookie programs in the past), or tap into one of their nearby minor league affiliates (Pawtucket or Lowell).
"(We're) still finalizing our Spring Training 2.0 plan,'' said chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom in a text message Tuesday, "(and) hope to be able to share full details in the coming days.''
2. What will the schedule look like?
First, forget about the three, 10-team divisions that were initially discussed. That plan is off the board for now. Instead, teams will mostly play games within their own division, with a small number of games in the corresponding geographical division. For the Red Sox that will mean some crossover games with the teams in the National League East (Washington, New York Mets, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Miami).
With a 60 game schedule, it's easy to imagine roughly 40 games within the division and the remainder set for interleague opponents. That would mean approximately one-third of the schedule would feature games against teams in the other league, but then, these are unusual circumstances.
3. What rule changes will take place?