After players rejected the latest MLB offer, owners voted unanimously to move forward with a 2020 MLB season under the terms of the March 26 agreement with the MLBPA, with Commissioner Rob Manfred still to announce the specifics of play.
In an announcement, MLB said certain benefits put forward in the previous offer were now off at the table, including a two-year DH, $25 million in playoff pools, $33 million in forgiven player advances, 104 percent of prorated salaries and expanded postseason.
So now we know we will have a season, but we still need to see specifics on when and where. Manfred is expected to call a 2020 MLB season of around 60 games, with play beginning the weekend of July 24-26 and players tentatively reporting for training on July 1. The season would end on Sept. 27 in order to wrap up playoff play with 10 teams before an expected second fall surge of COVID-19 cases. Teams will train and play at home ballparks (save the Toronto Blue Jays, at least at the beginning, as travel restrictions to Canada make that impossible) in a three-division arrangement that cuts down on travel. The MLBPA has been asked to confirm player availability for a July 1 training launch as well as agreement on the operating protocols submitted by MLB. (MLBPA, for its part, issued a statement saying it expected to reach an agreement on said operating protocols.) It’s expected that some players with high-risk family members will opt out of the season.
This will be the beginning of the season, but the tussle over owners and players over the future of the sport will continue. In many ways this agreement kicks the can down the road when it comes to mapping out certain parts of the next collective bargaining agreement. And both sides are expected to file grievances, arguing the other sides was not negotiating in good faith, although such grievances usually take years to resolve.
One huge issue remains for the sport: What if the coronavirus roars back in a big way? We’ve already seem players and staff testing positive while working out at MLB training camps, and in three states hosting plenty of teams–Arizona, Texas and Florida–we’re seeing both increased numbers of positives as well as. surge in positive test rates. The former can be explained by an increase in testing, but not the latter. If, after some several weeks of plays we see a higher-than-expected number of players test positive, we could see the 2020 season shut down.
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