At long last, there’s an official place and date for the Orioles to begin their 2020 season, assuming nothing happens between now and then to cause further problems and change MLB’s plans. The 60-game schedule begins on July 24 with the O’s in Boston. They’ll follow with two games against the Marlins in Miami before getting a home opener on Wednesday, July 29, also against the Marlins.
Under the agreed-upon plan for the schedule, each team will play ten games against its division opponents and a total of 20 games against teams in the same division in the other league. For the Orioles, that means ten games each against the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, and Blue Jays, plus six games against the Nationals, four against the Marlins and Phillies, and three against the Mets and Braves.
The Orioles have one of the toughest, if not the toughest, schedules of any team. Four of their opponents won at least 93 games in 2019 and all but two had records of .500 or better. This would probably be more frustrating if there were any illusions that the Orioles might have been good in 2020. It’s not like they’d be likely to fare notably better against overall weaker Central and West opponents. At least it’ll be over fast.
The shortened schedule means there are more quirks than you might normally see in a schedule. For instance, of the ten games the Orioles will play against the Rays, seven are at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The season series against the Blue Jays is flipped the other way, with the O’s scheduled for seven in Toronto and only three in Baltimore.
The longest homestand that the O’s will have in this shortened season is a ten-game stretch from August 14-23, with three games against the Nationals, three against the Blue Jays, and four against the Red Sox. They’re never on the road for more than seven consecutive games, an August 25-31 stretch immediately following that homestand where they’ll play three against the Rays and four in Toronto.
The month of September will begin with eleven consecutive games against the Mets and Yankees. There is simply not much room for variety in a 60-game schedule that maintains an unbalanced number against division opponents.
The O’s both open and close this season on the road. They play five games before getting a home game and their last six are also on the road. The scheduled end of the season is September 27, when they’ll close out their final series against the Blue Jays.
There will be a total of three exhibition games in the run-up to this abbreviated season. The O’s play one in Philly on July 19, one against the Nationals in Baltimore on July 20, and another against the Nats in DC on July 21. These games will not be televised on MASN or aired on the Orioles Radio Network.
About the possibility of fans in the stands this season, the Orioles included this in their release announcing the schedule:
At the start of the 2020 campaign, the Orioles, like many Major League teams, will not immediately play in front of spectators as part of a strict policy in the interest of public health and safety, as well as the safety of employees and players. The Orioles will continue to comply with local laws and orders while adhering to the guidelines set in place by public health professionals and will work with Major League Baseball to closely monitor this rapidly evolving situation. Policy updates regarding attendance will be communicated to fans if and when they become available.
It’s all going to be strange this year. There may not be fans in any games, or if there are some fans in some places it’ll surely be capped at a small number. There will be new rules like a universal designated hitter and weird ones like using the minor leagues extra innings rule where a runner begins every half-inning on second base once you get past the ninth inning. As a result of the shortened season, there will be no All-Star Game.
When the season begins, there will be a 30-man roster, and in the absence of any organized minor league baseball, each team will have a reserve group stationed in or around its home city for a total of a 60-man expanded roster.
Will the Orioles start playing some of the prospects? It’s probably the most interesting question for this shortened season. They invited essentially none of those guys to the initial summer camp and haven’t yet set up a second camp. Unless something starts to change very soon, I’m not expecting to see many of those guys I hoped I might get to see in August and September if there had been a full season.
The full 2020 Orioles schedule, including game times, is now available on the O’s website.