After months of players and owners wrangling over prorated salaries, safety protocols, and whether anyone truly knows what is or is not a balk, Major League Baseball is set to return on July 23. The pandemic-shortened season agreement includes flashy, surprising new rules like allowing a Designated Hitter in the National League, and starting extra innings starting with a runner on second base. Here is the full slate of COVID-specific rule changes.
19.1 Any runner caught coughing, sneezing, or otherwise expectorating on an opposing fielder in order to advance on the basepaths shall be called out, and benched for the remaining innings to be tested.
19.1a In cases above, closest umpire shall determine if a sliding runner kicked up nearly all dust, or mixture of dust and expectorant.
19.1b If runner threatens umpire with expectorant, umpire may simply back off, shrug, and casually award base.
19.2 Disputed calls on the field will no longer be exchanged via angry, argumentative, and risky speech, but rather, via notarized, disinfected correspondence.
19.3 For announcers only: Puns concerning pitchers’ poorly-thrown breaking balls and “flattened curves” will not be tolerated.
19.4 Politicized mockery or baiting of catchers and umpires for wearing masks will not be tolerated.
19.4a Exception allowed if catcher wearing mask is a first-year player. That’s just good rookie hazing.
19.5 Traditional dugout pranks will be monitored. “Wet Willies” and sunflower seeds spat at players conducting in-game TV interviews are banned. Shaving cream slipped into unsuspecting teammates’ ball caps? Still permitted, and hilarious.
19.6 Each team has the option of choosing a Designated Epidemiologist (DE).
19.6a If both opponents’ DE's agree that it will aid in player immunity, MLB will allow, during the shortened season, injections of anabolic steroids.
19.6b Bleach injections will not be allowed, though. Unless they are found to increase homerun totals and TV viewership.
19.6c Seriously, we alienated a lot of fans here.
19.7 Trade deadline falls on August 31. For the purposes of defining transactions, convalescent plasma trades shall be deemed cash considerations.
19.8 Active rosters shall open with 30 players per squad. Two weeks later, rosters shall decrease to 28 players. Two weeks after that, rosters shall decrease once more to 26 players.
19.8a Contraction of the number of teammates in the locker room shall end four weeks after season opener. Unless, you know, fate and immunity say otherwise.