Cubs baseball is close. But health and safety protocols will decide the season.
As Cubs fans everywhere now by now, this week, MLB and the MLBPA reached agreement on the 2020 season. What it came down to in the end was the health and safety protocols designed to keep players safe as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
The number of games, the prorated salary, all of that was agreed to by the players and owners. In the end, one issue remained after all these months of back and forth: the health and safety standards.
So to recap:
- Players report to camp on July 1, 60 players can attend camp
- 30-man roster for two weeks, reduced to 28 for two weeks, then 26 after that
- The season starts July 23-24
- 60 games in 70 days, rainout and rain delays will be made up
- Full prorated salaries
- A runner will start on second in extra innings
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But it is the health and safety protocols that were the last issues decided. I do not know how much back and forth went on but based on my browsing of previous proposals the final agreement on health and safety is more robust.
The major provisions include:
- Opt-out for high-risk individuals (cancer survivors Anthony Rizzo, Jon Lester for example)
- Everyone must be tested as they report to camp.
- Everyone: all players, coaches, staff, and front office personal will be tested every other day.
- Players get temperature and symptoms checks twice a day
- Anti-body testing once per month
- Players who test positive anytime will be placed on a separate Covid-19 IL
- Two consecutive negative tests are required before the player can return
In addition, every ball touched by more than two players will be tossed from the game, social distancing of non-game day players, especially pitchers, and no spitting, face touching, high fives, and anyone fighting, well, just don’t because I promise the MLB will hammer you. The full details on everything can be found on MLB’s site.
Finally, MLB and the MLBPA will consult the nation’s top experts on infectious diseases to improve and expand if necessary the protections already in place.
So, good to go right? Yeah, well maybe. Let’s be clear. While these protocols will help slow a spread among a team’s players, they will not stop an infection.
Imagine Kyle Hendricks and Yu Darvish test positive at the same time. That’s the top two-fifths of the Cubs starting rotation gone for who knows how long. That’s if they don’t become ill. If that happens it could the end of whatever season there was for them.
Now imagine this happening to three, six, nine teams, or more. Impossible? Hardly. They’ll be boarding planes and buses, crowding into clubhouses, dugouts, and bullpens, for 70 days, plus the postseason.
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I hope it all works out. I hope they all stay healthy and we get to see baseball through October. But at last count with 40 players and a number of team staff already infected, before any of this starts, it could be three, maybe four weeks into the season and it all shuts down again.