As has been leaked to various news sources, the rough plan calls for 50 or so games, with fully prorated salaries, expanded rosters, play at home ballparks sans fans, and the implementation of an extensive player-safety plan.
Technically, a shortened season with fully prorated salaries doesn’t require acceptance from MLBPA: it would be covered under a March agreement between MLB and MLPBA that set forth the terms of a potential 2020 season, with both sides making concessions in the wake of unprecedented times. There are plenty of pluses to a short season followed by a 14-team postseason: It also preserves the portion of the schedule most desirable to broadcasters, it might make for a safer player environment, and it allows for a postseason to be played in October or earlier, as all sports work on schedules that avoid a potential second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic come November or December. There’s nothing particularly magic about 50 games; it could end up being more, so long as it fits within the MLB playoff window. Could be 55, could be 60.
And how will the fans react? Well, right now there’s agreement within the industry that a regular season with anything past a smattering of fans in the stands is highly unlikely. With states still in the midst of coronavirus-mitigation plans and some areas seeing increased positive tests as well as rising positive-test rates (upwards of 9 percent in Arizona—a high number). We are not in the clear yet regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. On the one hand, you’ll see a lot of Twitter chirping about a shortened season being an illegitimate season. On the other hand, a cable-viewership record was treated to some really bad golfing from the likes of Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. If that foursome can set a viewing record, imagine how the return of the New York Yankees or Los Angeles Dodgers would be viewed. People might bitch, but they’d whine while watching a game.
So both sides are on the clock, and both sides will need to decide how badly they want to launch the 2020 MLB season. This week will likely determine the fate of baseball this year—and potentially for many years down the road.
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