Major League Baseball took a step toward returning to the field, but significant hurdles remain before a plan can be enacted, and Monday's decisions by the league's owners set the stage for a potentially ugly battle with the MLB Players Association.
According to multiple reports, MLB's owners approved a proposal for the 2020 season on a call Monday morning, with the proposal set to be presented to the MLBPA on Tuesday. While there are plenty of details to iron out, two issues loom over all the rest.
Players will want a guarantee that they can safely play the game at a time when much of society is still shut down by COVID-19, including the majority of the cities where players would begin to play in July. California, for example, has not yet moved into the third phase of reopening businesses, which is the one that will allow sporting events without fans. There are a lot of health and testing questions to be answered, as Washington Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle summed up in a thread:
Bear with me, but it feels like we've zoomed past the most important aspect of any MLB restart plan: health protections for players, families, staff, stadium workers and the workforce it would require to resume a season. Here are some things I'll be looking for in the proposal...— Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) May 11, 2020
The bigger sticking point in negotiations -- as is usually the case in professional sports -- may be how to divide revenues and pay players in a shortened season without fans. According to USA Today, the plan approved by owners calls for a 50 percent share of revenue between ownership and the MLBPA. Baseball, unlike other sports, has not based salaries on shares of league revenue, and players already are publicly balking at the idea of taking a pay cut this season.
According to USA Today, MLB officials expect to lose about 40 percent of their gross revenue due to the lack of ticket sales, concessions and parking fees. There remains a massive divide between the owners and the players on how to account for those losses.
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The rest of the proposal mostly contains solutions that should be easy for both sides to swallow. MLB would allow camps to re-open in June either in spring training facilities or home stadiums, with the goal of getting games back the first week of July. The six divisions would remain, but the Giants would only play NL West teams and AL West teams. Rosters would be expanded from 26 to 30 players with significant taxi squads to account for a shortened spring training and the likelihood of more doubleheaders.
There are two more elements that should benefit the Giants, who were not expected to contend this season. The postseason field would expand from 10 to 14 teams and the season is expected to be about 82 games, which gives the more loaded rosters less time to pull away. In theory, the Giants should be in a much more competitive position.
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Players reached by NBC Sports Bay Area in recent days said they were cautiously optimistic and were preparing for games to begin around July 1, but there are a lot of hurdles to be cleared before then, starting with Tuesday's initial discussions between the league and the players.