The proposal to bring baseball back and start the 2020 season amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is just hours old.
And already it's looking like there's a fight brewing between the owners and the players. NBC Sports Chicago's Adam Hoge was told Monday that the proposal is "doomed to fail."
This, of course, stems from the financial part of the plan that will reportedly be submitted to the players' union Tuesday after the owners approved it Monday. The league will propose a revenue-sharing plan to the players under which the two sides would split the revenues generated down the middle. That number is expected to be far lower than usual, of course, with the season schedule cut in half and games likely to be played in empty stadiums, with no paying customers in the seats.
The owners are expecting far less cash to come in and don't want player salaries to exceed revenue. Earlier this year, the two sides agreed to players earning prorated salaries depending on how many games end up being played. The owners want further concessions.
It's already been described as a non-starter for the players, with union chief Tony Clark telling The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal that he views the proposal as an attempt by the owners to institute a salary cap.
"That the league is trying to take advantage of a global health crisis to get what they’ve failed to achieve in the past — and to anonymously negotiate through the media for the last several days — suggests they know exactly how this will be received," Clark told Rosenthal. "None of this is beneficial to the process of finding a way for us to safely get back on the field and resume the 2020 season — which continues to be our sole focus."
Another heavy hitter in the baseball world, famous player agent Scott Boras, told Sports Illustrated's Stephanie Apstein that the earlier agreement should be the final one on this subject.
"We reached an agreement," he said, "and there will not be a renegotiation of that agreement."
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The financial negotiations will grab all the headlines — and could present the biggest and loudest roadblock as the league tries to salvage the 2020 season — but there are other, more important factors in this proposal getting off the ground: the ones that have to do with the health and safety of players and everyone necessary to stage baseball games.
Washington Nationals pitcher Sean Doolittle took to Twitter to voice his concerns over how Major League Baseball would guarantee the health of players and other workers in the middle of a pandemic.
"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," Doolittle tweeted.
"How many tests do we need to safely play during a pandemic? And not just tests for players. Baseball requires a massive workforce besides the players: coaches, clubhouse staff, security, grounds crews, umpires, gameday stadium staff, TV and media. ... And that's before we get to hotel workers and transportation workers (pilots, flight attendants, bus drivers). They are essential workers. We wouldn't be able to play a season without them, and they deserve the same protections.
"Hopefully these concerns will be addressed in MLB's proposal, first and foremost: 1) What's the plan to ethically acquire enough tests? 2) What's the protocol if a player, staff member, or worker contracts the virus?
"We want to play. And we want everyone to stay safe."
Doolittle brings up so much more than just those concerns, and his entire thread is well worth a read as an example of what will be going through players' heads as they are asked to return to work.
But while baseball maintains that this proposal is subject to change based on the evolution of the public-health situation, it forges ahead with a plan to bring players back for a second spring training beginning next month.
There's a lot working against conditions being right to start playing baseball again. While the reopening of certain states is what sparked the increased optimism that baseball will be played this year in the first place, it's important to note that most states do not meet public-health criteria for reopening, even if their state governments did it anyway. Medical experts vary on how many tests are necessary on a daily basis, but even the low end of their recommendations puts the United States well behind where it needs to be.
Just last week, The New York Times reported that the relaxing of preventative measures is projected to cause a steep rise in the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths.
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.
To summarize, challenges remain. Big ones. 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 a fight appears to be what's brewing.
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