Now that a 2020 MLB season is in place, Houston Astros fans will need to know these changes from the norm.
Play ball! After waiting for so long, Houston Astros fans will indeed get to see their team take the field in 2020. MLB and the MLBPA have ironed out all the details and a 60-game season will be happening with “Spring Training” camps opening July 1.
Pitchers and catchers will report first, and players will report at predetermined times to avoid having everyone show up at once. Teams must submit a 60-player pool list by Sunday, and they can invite all 60 of those players to big league camp or send as many as 20 of them to an alternate site.
They don’t have to invite all of their 40-man roster players to camp, but they do have to pay them regardless. The league-wide transaction freeze, which has been in place since the pandemic took hold, will end on Friday at noon ET.
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MLB has announced that Opening Day will be either July 23 or 24. Teams will have 30-man rosters to begin the season, but that number will go down to 28 after two weeks and 26 after four weeks. Teams can bring up to three “taxi squad” players with them on the road to be called up to the roster if needed. Games will be played in teams’ home ballparks.
There will be a trade deadline of Aug. 31, and players must be on the big league roster by Sept. 15 to be eligible for the postseason. Given that the players rejected MLB’s last offer, it doesn’t appear there will be an expanded postseason, so barring an additional agreement, we’re back to the typical 10-team playoff.
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One provision that may take some getting used to is the new extra-inning rule. In order avoid any unduly long games, each inning beginning with the 10th will start with a runner at second base. Baseball purists probably won’t be too thrilled.
The season schedule hasn’t been finalized, but MLB has submitted one to the MLBPA for review. It calls for teams to play within their division and against the opposite league’s corresponding geographical division. So the Astros would play the other AL West teams and also against the NL West teams, but the divisions would remain as currently constructed.
So instead of facing the Red Sox and Yankees, the Astros will take on the Dodgers and Giants. Their 60 games will be played against a total of nine teams — the Rangers, Athletics, Mariners, Angels, Dodgers, Giants, Padres, Diamondbacks and Rockies. There will be a universal DH this season, so they won’t have to go without the DH in National League parks.
Facing the Dodgers will be interesting, especially if and when the Astros will have to travel to Chavez Ravine. The fans (if there are any) probably won’t be too hospitable in the wake of the sign stealing scandal, and the opposing players likely won’t be either.
Health and safety will be the interesting thing to watch. Some players could choose to opt out, while others may miss time if they or someone in their family tests positive for COVID-19 or exhibits symptoms. The Astros have solid position player depth but are more thin on the pitching side, so this could make or break their season.
We’ll have plenty to delve into as we prepare for the beginning of the season, as the old Spring Training storylines will still have to be resolved and the Astros will have to determine who makes the roster. At long last, we can finally say there will be baseball in 2020.