Major League Baseball's owners approved a proposal to start the 2020 season Monday.
The plan outlines a resumption of the sport that's been on hold since March while the country has battled the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Details include a second spring training starting in mid-June, an Opening Day in the first few days of July, teams playing an 82-game regular season schedule against division opponents and opponents from the same division in the opposite league, expanded rosters and expanded playoffs set to wrap up in early November.
It gets fans who have waited for their favorite teams to return to the field excited.
But will the players agree?
The league will present the proposal to the union Tuesday, according to various reports. But despite the proposal including the first instance of revenue sharing in baseball history, it's apparently far from a slam dunk.
Games are expected to be played without fans present, and that paired with the regular season being cut in half means a significant dip in revenues for this multi-billion dollar entertainment industry. Without anywhere near as much cash as usual expected to come in, the owners are searching for ways to save money, and that includes decreasing the financial commitment to players, who agreed to prorated salaries earlier this year.
The league is looking for further reductions in player pay this year, and their proposed solution is a 50-50 split of the season's revenue, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale. Revenue sharing is happening in the NFL and NBA, but it's never happened before in baseball.
But even that step might not be palatable to the union, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post called the revenue-sharing pitch a "non-starter" with the players.
Of course, a financial fight between the owners and the players would represent some of the poorest optics imaginable as the country grapples with public health and economic crises that have left tens of thousands dead and tens of millions unemployed.
But money isn't the only thing expected to come up in these discussions, as players also need to be assured they will be safe going back to work with the coronavirus is far from under control in many parts of the country. While certain states reopening in recent weeks have provided optimism that baseball will be played in 2020, there's a difference between being allowed to stage games and it being safe to do so. Just last week, The New York Times reported that the relaxing of social distancing measures in certain states is projected to lead to a steep increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths.
Baseball's plan for starting the 2020 season is subject to change as the public health situation continues to evolve. All previously discussed plans have been contingent on widespread and frequent testing, which has been slow to improve in the United States. The league would have to test players, coaches, front office staff, training staff, food service staff, transportation staff, hotel staff, stadium staff and those required to broadcast games on TV on a regular basis, all while the rate and reliability of testing remains well below where experts say it should be nationwide.
Players balked at an idea to quarantine the season in one or two locations, especially if it meant being away from their families. The proposal approved Monday suggests teams play in their home ballparks, which are located in 28 different cities across 17 states (including the District of Columbia), which have varying degrees of preventative measures in place. The Toronto Blue Jays make this an international endeavor, as well.
Nonetheless, baseball is forging ahead.
Here are some more of the reported details from the league's proposal:
— A second spring training slated to begin in mid June, with Opening Day following between July 1 and July 4.
— Teams will have the choice of staging the second round of spring training at their home ballparks or at their spring training facilities in Arizona or Florida. The hope is all regular season games will be able to be played in home ballparks. If that's not possible, teams would have the choice to share a big league ballpark with another team or play their home games at their spring training facility.
— A regular season schedule of 82 games, played exclusively against division opponents and opponents from the corresponding geographic division in the other league. So, for example, the White Sox would play games against their four AL Central rivals and against the five teams from the NL Central, without seeing teams from the AL East or the AL West.
— A universal designated hitter, with nearly half the games pitting AL teams against NL teams.
— Expanded rosters, growing from 26 to 30 players per team, as well as a 20-man "taxi squad" of available minor leaguers.
— Expanded playoffs, growing the number of teams in the postseason from 10 to 14, that would be set to end in early November, as to avoid playing during a feared "second wave" of COVID-19 infections.