NEW YORK (AP) – Major League Baseball issued a 60-game schedule Tuesday night that will begin July 23-24 on empty stadiums as the sport tries to advance amid the coronavirus after months of acrimony.
A dramatically altered season with games full of new rules was the end result of failed financial negotiations. But for fans eager to see any baseball this year, at least now they can look forward to opening day.
The MLB announcement came as more players continue to test positive for the virus, at least seven in the Philadelphia Phillies alone. And it became clear that if health situations deteriorated, all games could be removed.
“What happens when we all understand it?” Milwaukee pitcher Brett Anderson tweeted this week.
A day after the players’ association rejected a financial deal and left open the possibility of a hundreds of millions of dollars in damages claim, the parties discussed an operations manual. Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred unilaterally imposed the schedule, his right under a March agreement with the union.
In a twist, the sides expanded the designated hitter to games involving National League teams for the first time and instituted the radical innovation of starting additional innings with a runner at second base.
The playoff teams remain at 10 for now, there is still talk of a possible expansion. The rejected agreement had called 16 teams.
Players will begin reporting for resumption of training on July 1. It remains to be seen which players will return to work: high-risk individuals may choose not to participate and continue to receive salary and service time, but others who sit without receiving any money or service credit necessary for free agency eligibility. and salary arbitration.
Each team will play 10 games against each of its four division rivals and four games against each of the five clubs in the corresponding division in the other league, according to details obtained by The Associated Press.
A team is slated to make just one trip to each city it visits in the shortest MLB season since 1878. A schedule so short that some fans may question the legitimacy of the records.
No matter what, the season will be one of the most unusual for a sport that prides itself that the title race is a marathon and not a sprint: Washington started 19-31 and 27-33 last year, but ended 93-69 to win a wild card and won a seven-game World Series for his first title.
“There is a lot more pressure because on a 60 game schedule, I think you have 25% more teams that can compete, who had no idea they were going to compete for 162 games,” said Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz. , now An announcer.
The exchange deadline will be August 31 and the deadline to be in an organization for postseason eligibility is September 15. Teams can resume exchanges on Friday, when the rosters will no longer be frozen.
The active rosters will be 30 during the first two weeks of the season, 28 during the last two weeks, and 26 thereafter. They will not expand to 28 on September 1, as originally intended this year.
Without minor leagues, teams could retain 60 players each, including a squad of taxis. Up to three players from the taxi team may travel with one team to a game, and one of the three must be a receiver.
MLB maintains the planned innovation that pitchers must face three hitters or finish a half inning: Players refused to accept a year ago, but also gave up their right to block.
The lowest on the disabled list for pitchers at 10 days instead of going back to 15, as originally intended.
Public opinion shattered both sides as they locked themselves in a fierce financial battle during a pandemic that caused more than 120,000 deaths and 2.3 million infections in the United States. USA And it generated an unemployment rate of 14.7%, the highest since the Great Depression.
MLB originally hoped to be the first major league in the US. USA Returning, with an 82-game schedule that started around July 4, but a public dispute erupted between management and players who are wary of the teams’ financial claims after years of franchise appreciation. MLB claimed that without gate-related earnings it would lose $ 640,000 for each additional regular-season game, a figure the union disputed.
MLB was exasperated with the union leadership team, led by former All-Star first baseman Tony Clark and Bruce Meyer, a litigator hired in August 2018. Manfred and Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem were enraged when Clark said he considered the outcome. of a one-on-one standoff – a meeting with Manfred last week for a proposal instead of what MLB called a framework for a deal.
Instead of playing 162 games over 186 days, the season will be 60 games over 66 or 67 days, depending on whether there is a televised opening game on Thursday night. It is scheduled to end on September 27, leaving little room to offset the September rains.
Players receive staggered reporting times over several days for admission detection. The time will be used for coronavirus testing before the resumption of training, which was halted on March 12 due to the pandemic.
Due to increased infections in the Florida and Arizona summer heat, 28 teams are currently leaning toward training in their regular season stadiums. Detroit remained partial to Lakeland, Florida, and Toronto hoped to obtain government permission to exercise at the Rogers Center.
Under the terms of the agreement reached by the parties on March 26, which should have been opening day, players would receive prorated portions of their wages if the virus doesn’t shorten the 60-game schedule. Wages originally amounted to $ 4 billion, and the prorated portion of approximately 37% reduces the wage to $ 1.48 billion.
Wages ranged from at least $ 563,500 to $ 36 million for Mike Trout and Gerrit Cole at the top, but the differential would now be $ 208,704 to $ 13,333,333.
MLB had initially looked last month in its initial financial proposal to reduce the payout to around $ 1 billion, and the players pledged not to forgo the full prorated payout and proposed a 114-game schedule that totaled $ 2.8 billion. .
The relationship deteriorated again to the level of the labor wars that led to eight work stoppages between 1972 and 1995, and the union has threatened a complaint alleging that MLB failed to comply with the provision in the March agreement that requires the longest season financially. Possible, conditioned by several other MLB provisions, it would argue that the union negotiated in bad faith, and the case would be discussed before referee Mark Irvings.
That would be a prelude to the expiration of the current employment contract on December 1, 2021, which will likely be followed by a lockout.
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