The feelings around a 2020 Major League Baseball season have slowly shifted from hopeful to cautiously optimistic to questionable as negotiations between the players and owners continue to hit road bumps.
Further salary cuts, player safety and the structure of the potential season are all factors that the two sides have different opinions on. Therefore, an agreement that would bring baseball back has continuously stalled. MLB Network's Jon Heyman explained that a "soft deadline" for a deal to be reached was June 1st. That now seems highly unlikely.
As players continue to voice their displeasure with the idea of losing a larger sum of their salary and owners stand pat, there is still a lot to be worked out if games are going to be played. Now, another concerning detail has emerged, as ESPN's Buster Olney wrote on Sunday that there is a faction of owners content with no baseball happening in 2020.
"Sources say there is a group of owners perfectly willing to shut down the season, to slash payroll costs and reduce losses, and the disparate views among the 30 teams have been reflected in the decisions to fire and furlough," he wrote.
Whether this mindset takes control or not, Major League Baseball is facing a major turning point both for the 2020 season and beyond. As Olney explains in his piece, the messy negotiations aren't just dangerous for the near future, but for years to come.
The focus has been on salvaging the current season, but what about losing next year? That's a reasonable thought according to Olney.
If the current season disappears, there's a reasonable expectation that tensions will carry over into the '21 season that will require a new Collect Bargaining Agreement. If the sides couldn't settle on an appropriate deal for a shortened season, things won't be any easier when the fate of their careers for years to come is now on the table.
Olney explained that on the side of the players, the threat of a strike could be enacted if negotiations continue to sour. As for the owners, the thought of losing more money in the future on a new deal is enough for them to continue to not budge.
The stalemate continuing on would completely shatter the league's ability to get things back to normal. That's bad for Major League Baseball internally, but the outside optics could be even worse.
Olney notes that a lost season will obviously not go over well with supporters. Whether fans are supporting the player's request or believe pay cuts should be made, no one will be happy if they can't watch their team play in 2020.
"If that doesn't happen -- if they can't agree on a deal to play in 2020 -- baseball will become a loathed presence on North America's sporting landscape, scorned by many fans," Olney wrote.
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But, the anger at the MLB may not end there. Even if 2021 does see baseball happen, drawn-out disputes to get to that point could push fans even further away.
"The labor fight could go on and on, and by the time it all plays out, it's impossible to know how many fans, feeling alienated or disgusted, will leave baseball behind once and for all," Olney added.
The frustration wouldn't just be at the owners, either. Though the players have reasons for their stances, it doesn't mean everyone is going to understand. Olney brought up former pitcher Tom Glavine's explanation to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution of how the current situation compared to the 1994-1995 strike. A largely economic-based stoppage, arguments over large sums of money didn't gain much support from the public, even if what the players wanted was fair.
"If it were to come down to an economic issue and that's the reason baseball didn't come back, you're looking at a situation similar to the strike of '94 and '95 as far as fans are concerned," Glavine said. "Even if the players were 100% justified in what they were complaining about, they're still going to look bad."
At this time, figuring out the 2020 MLB season is still of the utmost importance. Not all hope is lost, but a tough road lies ahead. Should things continue to sour, Olney notes that the future of baseball will face countless more problems.
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