Major League Baseball and the MLBPA have agreed on a season length and start date. The hard part remains.
Multiple reports Tuesday said the union agreed to the league’s implementation of a 60-game season with full prorated pay. Spring training 2.0, as it’s fancifully being called, will begin July 1 in the home stadiums of teams across the league.
What has not been resolved are the health-and-safety protocols. They remain the tricky part of these final negotiations, and are added to the pile of things which could have been discussed well before June 23.
The league at least started with a baseline for the in- and out-of-game procedures thanks to a 67-page document released in mid-May. Despite MLB’s attempt at comprehensiveness, the document was filled with holes. There is no enforcement mechanism. It did not have explanations for what happens if positive test results come back while a player is on the field. It does not outline what to do in case of an outbreak with a single team, when that team would have to play elsewhere or what the threshold for halting the season is, if it came to that.
There is no perfect answer. The initial protocol proved that out.
Both sides have continued to push for a season that will present logistical complications no other league will manage. The NBA and NHL will both be in a “bubble” setting. Major League Baseball is trying to safely work in 30 cities. Travel distance will be truncated. The change does little to lower the general risk of moving so many people so many times when a pandemic is ongoing.
For now, the league has a report date and a shallow season. Spring training stopped March 12. Facilities began to shut down. Everyone wondered what was next.
More than three months later, the sport has one significant hurdle remaining to start a season. It also has no guarantee anything it starts will finish.
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