Baseball is back! Although his return is not exactly the story of feeling good that someone expected.
On Tuesday, the Major League Baseball and MLB Players Association solved their final problems and agreed that there will be a 2020 season in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Major League Baseball said in a statement Monday that it would implement a timeline for the 2020 season without input from the MLB Players Association.
The statement came after the players ‘union rejected, through a 33-5 vote, the owners’ proposal for a 60-game season. Under a March 26 agreement between the parties, MLB has the power to set a schedule of their choice, as long as the players receive their prorated salaries.
For the first time since March 12, baseball is back on the calendar, after the virus halted spring training and delayed opening day.
Here is what you need to know about it:
When will spring training begin? Not later than July 1.
When is the opening day? Probable July 24
Regular season length: Probable 60 games.
How will MLB pay players? Players will receive a full prorated payout, which is what they have always wanted.
New playoffs? No Because the parties were unable to reach an agreement, the playoffs will happen as they always have: 10 teams, five in each league.
What’s new? Highlights include a universal DH for the 2020 season, a trade deadline of August 31, and a number of health and safety measures to protect against the spread of the virus, including social estrangement, no fans in the stands, no spit without fighting and much more.
Don’t underestimate this: The players maintained their ability to file a complaint or a lawsuit against Major League Baseball. If presented, the players’ union would likely argue that the owners negotiated against them in bad faith. The problem: the intention is difficult to prove, and the owners made several offers. If the players did not like the offers, that does not necessarily determine bad faith.
How will the lists be? They are likely to be expanded to help protect teams from injury due to shortened spring training. After all, even the Yankees team doctor predicted an increase in Tommy John surgeries related to arrest and the start of regular training. Teams are expected to carry 30 players on their active rosters for a time, up from 26. They are also expected to retain an additional 20 players who could be asked for depth. Think of it as a small farm system.
Will there be new divisions? No. There was talk of that, but it never materialized.
Will there be a new schedule? Yes. The teams will meet regionally. For the Yankees, that means facing teams east of the American League and east of the National League.
Be skeptical: The coronavirus, and the league’s ability to protect people from it, will determine whether the season lasts. The NYU chief medical ethic believes there is no chance that the virus will not stop the season.
How do we get here? Bitterness and greed, and a clock that was moving towards an even shorter season. Clark and Manfred met in person on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. It came after the tensions between the sides seemed to reach a boiling point. On Monday, Manfred told ESPN that he was no longer totally sure there would be a 2020 regular season, just a week after telling the MLB network that “absolutely” there will be a season. That prompted Clark to issue a statement saying the players were “disgusted” with the way the owners had been handling the negotiations, and the players launched a social media campaign preaching the same message about being willing to always play. He attracted players like Yankees ace Gerrit Cole and many others. It didn’t help that the owners rejected the players’ 70-game season proposal and did not come up with a counter offer.
Chronology: While the parties will claim that much of the conversation focused on how to keep players and staff safe amid the coronavirus pandemic, the real showdown was about money. Players wanted to play as many regular season games as possible while being paid the full salary per game. The owners complained that they could lose too much money (without a fanatic in the stands) to pay them in full at every juncture. Despite the March 26 deal that suspended spring training, the parties interpreted the language of the deal differently. The players argued that the deal said they would be paid their full prorated wages when the games begin. The owners argued that players would have to renegotiate at least that if the virus prevented fans from being in the stands. After presenting a revenue sharing plan on May 11, the players asked the owners to share financial information with them that would demonstrate their coercion on May 14. On May 26, the owners offered variable-scale wages that the players union rejected immediately before requesting to play a 114-game season. MLB’s second offer was for a 76-game season that guaranteed up to 75 percent payout if a postseason was held. The players responded with an 89 game season and prorated wages.
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Brendan Kuty can be contacted at [email protected]. Tell us your coronavirus story or send a tip here.