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MLB announces smaller rosters, penalties for not following new COVID-19 protocols

Teams have to cut down rosters to 28 today, and players may be barred from playing if they don’t follow COVID rules

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Chicago White Sox v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Major League Baseball is continuing to make new rules as they go along during this unusual season.

The Brewers and every other team in baseball will have until 11 a.m. CDT today to cut their roster down from 30 to 28 players, where rosters will stay for the rest of the season and the playoffs. Previously, plans called for a gradual reduction to 26-man rosters by September, but that seemed to go out the window recently. The new rule wasn’t announced until late Wednesday night, another significant rule change made during the middle of a season, joining the invention of 7-inning doubleheaders and a new playoff format.

Also taking effect today are “new” COVID-19 safety protocols — we use the mocking quotes there because a lot of them are largely the same rules that nobody seemed to be following: Wear a mask at all times in the dugout and bullpen when you’re not playing. No, seriously, wear your damn mask. Also, stop spitting. Seriously, knock it off. Stop piling into the dugout and use the extended covered seating. Stay in your damn hotel room when you’re on the road. And no, a group of you can’t gather in one person’s room.

Those were all mostly already in the league’s protocol, which it seems nobody bothered to read because it was 109 pages long.

There are some enhanced measures, though, after outbreaks on the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals and rumors of activities on road trips that may have been the root cause of the infections (although Derek Jeter has continued to refute those rumors from the Marlins’ end).

Among those new rules: if you want to leave the hotel while you’re on the road, you need to tell the team’s compliance officer, and that person needs to clear the trip off hotel grounds. Even at home, players and staff members are banned from going to bars, lounges, malls or other places where there may be large groups of people. This basically creates a “modified” bubble — aside from travel, you’re basically to stay home or in your hotel room, similar to the model that’s led to success in the NBA.

They key change, though — if anyone or any team is found to be flagrantly violating the rules, there’s now actual discipline: being banned from playing. From the memo:

“Any covered individuals — whether players or club staff — who are found to have repeatedly or flagrantly violated the protocols, including refusing to wear a face covering when required and reminded to do so risks being prohibited from further participation in the 2020 season and postseason (in the case of players, subject to the just cause provisions in the Basic Agreement). The Commissioner’s Office will send written warnings prior to any such action being taken.”

That’s a significant change, considering before, the rules were much more of the “it would be a really good idea to follow these” variety. It’ll be interesting to see just how severe the violations would have to be for the Commissioner’s Office to take that kind of action.