MLB trims schedule to 60 games

The how, when and if of the debates between the Major League Baseball owners and the players who compete in the sport seemed as contentious as Middle East peace talks before a deal was finally struck to conduct a 2020 regular season.

The professional sport in the United States where labor peace has proved most elusive over the most years finally produced a truce so the game’s 30 teams could contest a mini-season during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Finding common ground over length of season, safety procedures and other rules of engagement led to what Thursday begins a 60-game regular season lasting until Sept. 27, in addition to a playoff and World Series schedule to determine a champion.

Baseball teams were in the midst of spring training in Florida and Arizona when the sport shut down in mid-March in response to the worsening coronavirus that essentially halted all spectator sports.

Players scattered to their homes and awaited proposals as their representatives negotiated with owners and Commissioner Rob Manfred. While all parties insisted they wished to play, it was slow going to reach agreements.

Instead of opening the 2020 season March 26 as was originally scheduled, the first games of summer will be Thursday, July 23, with the majority of teams — including the local Cincinnati Reds — scheduled to open Friday.

Cincinnati meets the Detroit Tigers at 6:10 p.m. at Great American Ball Park; however, no spectators will be permitted to watch the games onsite and refunds to season ticket-holders and individual ticket buyers are being offered.

At one point, players said they would be willing to play until Thanksgiving, even in the snow, but Manfred indicated this 60-games-in-63-days arrangement is the most practical with playoffs taking place as they usually do in October.

Much of the period baseball figures negotiated it seemed the country was poised for a steady reopening of businesses, but now, baseball will embark on its truncated schedule when virus cases are spiking and the United States is still battling a rise in illnesses and deaths.

As additional illustration that little will be normal about this season, the Toronto Blue Jays learned the other day they will not be able to have any home games. The Canadian government is refusing to allow Major League teams to make repeated border crossings.

Canada refused to issue a National Interest Exemption, leaving the Blue Jays scrambling for a temporary home stadium away from Rogers Centre only days prior to season’s start. The options were the nearby minor league stadium in Buffalo, New York, the Blue Jays’ spring training home in Dunedin, Florida, or St. Petersburg, Florida.