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MLB Rules and Protocols for the Rest of the 2020 Season and Notes on the Cardinals’ Schedule

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MLB: St. Louis Cardinals-Workouts Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the Cardinals are back in action today, I wanted to provide you with a short article that clarifies the roster size rules that have been agreed upon, the new COVID-19 related protocols that have been agreed upon, as well as outline the Cardinals schedule going forward.

ROSTER SIZE

The MLB 2020 Operations Manual initially called for a 30-man roster to open the season, a 28-man roster on the 15th day of the season and a 26-man roster on the 29th day of the season, which would continue through the playoffs. Although one can never seem to find an official press release from either MLB or the MLBPA on anything important these days, it has been widely reported, including by an MLB.com general beat writer, that the active rosters were indeed required to be reduced to 28 players effective yesterday at Noon EST. The rosters, however, will stay at 28 players for the rest of the season and postseason, instead of being further reduced to 26 players.

In addition, the Manual had outlined that the “26th man” rule would be in effect for doubleheaders only at the point in the season when the rosters had been reduced to 26. With the rosters staying at 28 for the rest of the season, there will now be a “29th man” rule, allowing clubs like the Cardinals who face doubleheaders to bring an extra man along.

Finally, the size of the allowable traveling “taxi squad” has been increased from 3 to 5 players on the road. Right now, C Jose Godoy is the only one we know about that is currently on the taxi squad, and he is still permitted to serve as the bullpen catcher for home games.

NEW COVID PROTOCOLS

For this information, I must credit Al Yellon at Bleed Cubbie Blue, because I couldn’t find anything about it from the sources I typically peruse. I guess I’m a societal outcast because I don’t have a Twitter account that buzzes my phone all day with updates. Even if I did, I apparently would not have known who to follow. Al’s article is here. ESPN staff writer Jesse Rogers has some additional information here. An interesting tidbit from the Rogers article is his quote from Commissioner Rob Manfred, who said, “We believe, in the two serious outbreaks, that we can identify deviations from the protocols that resulted in the situations that we had.” Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch indicated in his article here that in the case of the Cardinals, that once one individual contracted the virus from an asymptomatic outside associate, the virus “spread as a result of interactions that couldn’t be avoided and some clusters of conduct around and on the field that could.” Cardinal officials have declined to identify or clarify if there were specific deviations from the protocols, and if so, what they were.

The upshot is that MLB sent a lengthy memo on August 5th to teams outlining changes to the protocols in the Manual that had been agreed to by MLB and the MLBPA. I can’t represent that the following highlights of the new protocols are comprehensive because I do not have a copy of the memo.

*Masks are now required everywhere for all players and staff, except for the actual field of play. They’re required in the stadium, in the facility, in the club house, in the dugout, in the bullpen, and even in hotels on the road, except for when people are alone in their room. In addition, surgical masks are now required on airplanes and buses to facilities. Cloth masks had been deemed acceptable in the past, but apparently a concern was raised that part of the spread of the virus in the clubs with the major outbreaks occurred on charter flights.

*Players at home are now prohibited from going to bars, malls or any large gatherings. I am unsure if “large” was further defined. When on the road, players must get permission from the club compliance officer before leaving the hotel.

*It had been reported that the Cardinals’ traveling party was in the neighborhood of 57 or 58 players. That is about to change. Clubs have been required to reduce their traveling party to personnel essential to playing games. Does the General Manager or POBO qualify? I don’t know.

*We’ve all been wondering about those canopies in the stadium that no one seems to use. I thought this was being done already, but teams will be required to provide outdoor, covered spaces for the visiting team to minimize time spent inside. Both home and away clubs will also be required to have dedicated spaces where social distancing can be observed during rain delays. Wasn’t that done before? What about bench players being in the stands or the canopies if the dugout isn’t big enough for social distancing? Shildt has been recently quoted as saying “If you’re not in the lineup, you are not in the dugout.”

*Who knows if we will see this in action, but the memo says that people can be prohibited from further participation in the 2020 season for repeated or flagrant violations of the protocols. Failure to wear a mask when required and reminded to do so qualifies. Written warnings will be issued before any league discipline is administered.

If I get my hands on the memo, I will provide further updates.

ALL POSTPONED GAMES HAVE BEEN RESCHEDULED

At my last count tracking this issue, there were 10 MLB clubs that had to reschedule at least one game. The Cubs and Reds had to make up one game against each other due to a rainout, and 8 other clubs, including the Cardinals, had to postpone games due to COVID-19 related issues. The Cardinals had postponed 7 games, more than any other club, even the Marlins, who had a worse outbreak of the virus.

It has now been announced that the Cardinals will play every one of those postponed games. The Cards were supposed to have 4 more off days at this point in the schedule. They will now have only two for the rest of the season. The Field of Dreams game that was supposed to take place between the Cards and and White Sox in Dyersville, Iowa on August 13th, will instead feature a doubleheader between the Cards and Tigers in Detroit. Instead of the previously scheduled off day on August 14th, the Cards will proceed directly to Chicago. They won’t pass GO. They won’t collect $200. They will go directly to Chicago, where the Field of Dreams game will be replaced by a regular first game against the White Sox as part of a previously scheduled 3-game series. There will still be off days on August 27th and September 3rd. Instead of an off-day on September 10th, the Cards will play another doubleheader against the Tigers, this time at home. The remaining 3 games against the Brewers will be tacked on to previously scheduled games to create 3 additional doubleheaders: one on September 14th at Milwaukee, another in the same series at Milwaukee on September 16th, and another at Busch Stadium on September 25th. Because all three postponed games against the Brewers were road games for the Cards, the quirk of the September 25th doubleheader at Busch Stadium is that the Brewers will be the home team for the first game. When you boil it down to its least common denominator, the Cards lost two off days in exchange for 5 doubleheaders. At least the doubleheaders will consist of 7-inning games.

Here is the roadmap for the rest of the season:

*Starting today, August 7th, the Cards play 21 games in 20 straight days through August 26th (one doubleheader).

*Day off on August 27th.

*Play 6 games in 6 straight days from August 28th through September 2nd.

*Day off on September 3rd.

*Play 28 games in 24 straight days from September 4th through September 27th to close out the season (4 doubleheaders).