Protocols to begin 2021 season are similar to 2020 precautions

Major League Baseball formally announced its health and safety protocols Tuesday. And if you haven't heard yet, the 2021 season is going to look a lot like the 2020 season. At least at the outset.

With the pandemic still consuming the nation and vaccinations still not available to most Americans yet, baseball had little choice but to reinstate many of the procedures that were necessary last season. This time, though, they're going to have to hold up through a full spring training, 162-game regular season and full postseason. (Unless the rules are relaxed at some point along the way, which is possible.)

What does that mean? Let's run through some of the most significant items on the league's lengthy list of protocols ...

Juan Soto stare mask white sidebar.jpg* Players and other on-field personnel will be tested for COVID-19 at least every other day throughout spring training, the regular season and postseason. Anyone who tests positive will be required to isolate for a minimum of 10 days and won't be allowed to return until cleared by the joint health and safety committee established by MLB and the MLB Players Association, as well as the individual club's physician.

* A league-wide code of conduct will be enforced. Team personnel won't be allowed to attend any indoor gatherings of 10 or more people, indoor restaurants, bars or lounges, fitness centers, entertainment or gaming venues. Players and their families must quarantine at home throughout spring training, except for official club activities, outdoor dining or essential activities. During the season, players on the road can't leave their hotels except when they go to the ballpark or for outdoor walks or dining. Members of the travel party cannot bring anyone into their hotel rooms and may only meet household or family members outdoors. Anyone found in violation of the code of conduct is subject to discipline, including suspension or forfeiture of salary for any days missed due to a violation.

* Players and staff members must wear contact tracing devices at all times. Anyone who has come into close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 will be subject to a seven-day quarantine and must test negative on day five or later to return to club facilities.

* All doubleheader games will be reduced to seven innings. And all extra innings will begin with an automatic runner on second base, just as it was during the 2020 season.

* The active roster will be 26 from April through August, expanded to 28 in September. Teams may bring five taxi squad players on the road.

Most of this looks and sounds relatively familiar at this point. We all became accustomed to these protocols last season. But that doesn't mean anyone is excited to see them reinstituted for another season.

Hopefully, as cases decrease and vaccination numbers increase, MLB will be able to relax some of these policies as the season plays out. And perhaps at some point along the way, the game will return to something that bears closer resemblance to what we all used to know and love.

But for now, everyone has to accept that baseball to begin 2021 will have more in common with the baseball we saw in 2020 than any previous season in history.

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