After the coronavirus postponed the start of the baseball season, and shut down nearly everything else, the sport returns for 2020 with a 60-game season mandated by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. Negotiations between the league and the MLB Players Association haven't been pretty, with weeks of back-and-forth proposals that played out in the media without reaching a resolution before a season was finally imposed. Even now, a handful of players, including the Washington Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman and the San Francisco Giants' Buster Posey, have announced they're sitting out the shortened season.
But after all the arguing and uncertainty baseball is back starting tonight. Here's how you can watch the first two games and the rest of the shortened 2020 season.
What's the MLB 2020 schedule?
The regular season will begin Thursday, July 23, with a prime-time doubleheader. In the first game, the New York Yankees visit the defending champion Nationals starting at 7 p.m. ET (4 p.m. PT). The second game pits the San Francisco Giants against the Los Angeles Dodgers at 7 p.m. PT (10 p.m. ET).
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Both games will be broadcast on ESPN.
The rest of the league will begin play on Friday, July 24 in a packed slate, starting with the Atlanta Braves at the New York Mets at 4:10 p.m. ET (1:10 p.m. PT).
CBS Sports has a breakdown of some of the highlights and dates to look forward to this season.
How can I watch the 2020 MLB season on TV without cable?
Beyond those opening two games on ESPN, expect to watch regular-season baseball in 2020 the same way as you would've in past years. That means national networks that carry MLB games in normal seasons, namely as Fox, Fox Sports 1, TBS, MLB Network and ESPN, are going to be broadcasting games in 2020.
You'll be able to watch on your local regional sports networks such as local Fox Sports channels, the YES Network (New York Yankees), NESN (Boston Red Sox) or SportsNet LA (Los Angeles Dodgers).
For cable TV cord cutters, many of the national channels are offered on five of the major live TV streaming services. You'll want to check with each service to see if your regional sports network is offered.
To get all the national baseball channels you'll need Sling's Blue/Orange package that runs $45 a month, plus the Sports Extra add-on for an additional $10 per month to get MLB Network. Read our Sling TV review.
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YouTube TV costs $65 a month and includes all the major national baseball channels. Depending on your team and area, you may also have your regional sports network. Read our YouTube TV review.
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Hulu with Live TV
Hulu with Live TV costs $55 a month and includes most major national baseball channels, including ESPN, Fox and TBS. While some areas may be able to also get regional sports networks, the service does not have MLB Network. Read our Hulu with Live TV review.
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AT&T TV Now
AT&T TV Now's basic $55-a-month Plus package includes ESPN, Fox, FS1 and TBS, but you'll need to step up to the $80-per-month Max package for regional sports channels and potentially the $110-per-month Choice package if you also want MLB Network. Read our AT&T TV Now review.
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FuboTV includes Fox, ESPN, FS1 and TBS in its $55-per-month Standard plan (which goes up to $60 on Aug. 1) as well as some local regional sports networks, though those looking for MLB Network will need to look elsewhere. Note: ESPN is not currently offered but will be available at some point this summer, FuboTV says. Read our FuboTV review.
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In addition to the services above there's MLB.TV, the MLB's paid streaming service. It will be available to stream out-of-market games with the league charging $60 for the entire, shortened season.
T-Mobile and Sprint users will be able to get a free, season-long subscription to MLB.TV beginning on July 21 as part of the T-Mobile Tuesdays perks program. Those looking to take advantage of the offer have until Tuesday, Aug. 4 at 1:59 a.m. PT (4:59 a.m. ET) to sign up.
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Where will games be played?
Regular season are set to take place in each of the 30 teams' respective home cities, with the exception being the Toronto Blue Jays, the only MLB team based outside of the US.
On July 18 the Blue Jays announced they would not be playing home games in Canada as planned. It's still unclear where exactly the club will settle for the season, and it may end up not having a "home" stadium at all.
All baseball games, regardless of city, are set to be played without fans.
Which teams will play one another?
To keep travel to a minimum, teams will play those in their nearest geographical areas, so expect mainly in-division play with interleague limited to just those in the opposite league's division (AL East versus NL East, AL Central versus NL Central, AL West versus NL West).
So the Nationals, as CBS Sports notes in its example, will only play against rival NL East teams with interleague games coming against AL East teams. This means we won't see the beleaguered Houston Astros visiting the Yankees until the postseason, potentially, but those looking for the garbage-can-beating 'Stros to get some comeuppance can look forward to their games against the Dodgers in a rematch of the 2017 World Series. The first matchup between the two teams will be in Houston on July 28 and 29.
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Are there changes to extra innings?
In a bid to ensure games don't go on for too long, extra-inning play will start with a runner on second for the batting team, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale. This would continue every half-inning until there is a winner.
Is there a DH in the NL?
The pitcher's spot in the batting order will become a designated hitter, with MLB adopting a universal DH for the 2020 season.
What about expanded playoffs?
While there was talk of expansion, playoffs for the 2020 season will remain at 10 teams.
Who's not playing?
A number of players have already said they won't play in the shortened season. Here are some of the current players who have announced that they will be sitting out:
- Mike Leake (Arizona Diamondbacks)
- Joe Ross (Washington Nationals)
- Ian Desmond (Colorado Rockies)
- Ryan Zimmerman (Washington Nationals)
- David Price (Los Angeles Dodgers)
- Welington Castillo (Washington Nationals)
- Felix Hernandez (Atlanta Braves)
- Nick Markakis (Atlanta Braves)
- Buster Posey (San Francisco Giants)
- Michael Kopech (Chicago White Sox)
- Héctor Noesí (Pittsburgh Pirates)
- Jordan Hicks (St. Louis Cardinals)
Other players, such as Los Angeles Angels superstar Mike Trout, have indicated they may take time to be with their families. Trout and his wife Jessica are expecting their first child in August, but he has appeared in preseason games.
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