MLB Owners Meeting Today To Discuss Plans For '20 Season
MLB will "discuss its plans" for the '20 season in a conference call with owners today, and if they "give their approval, the league will present its proposal" to the MLBPA tomorrow, according to Ken Rosenthal of THE ATHLETIC. Sources indicate that this is a "rough outline" of some of what the league would like to do:
- A regular season "beginning in early July and consisting of approximately 80 games." The number "might not be exactly 80 -- 78 and 82 are also possibilities."
- The schedule "would be regionalized" to minimize travel. Clubs "would open in as many home parks as possible," with even N.Y. "potentially in play by early July."
- Expanded playoffs similar to the idea first reported in February, with an "increase from five to seven teams in each league."
- Because games, "at least initially, will be played without fans, the players would be asked to accept a further reduction in pay, most likely by agreeing to a set percentage of revenues for this season only" (THEATHLETIC.com, 5/9).
OTHER DETAILS: In L.A., Bill Shaikin reported under the owners’ plan, players "would report to training camp in June and start an abbreviated season in early July." Rosters "would be expanded to account for the probable cancellation of the minor league season," and the postseason "would be expanded too." Fans "would not be admitted, at least at the start." But MLB owners "could tweak some of those concepts" today. Following approval, Commissioner Rob Manfred's office "would then begin what could be a contentious negotiation with the players’ union" (L.A. TIMES, 5/10). In N.Y., Joel Sherman reported there are those in the game who are "still holding out for 100 games via more doubleheaders, fewer off-days and perhaps pushing the regular season into October." But one source described that as “a very optimistic, everything going right” scenario. Sherman noted MLB "still has to demonstrate to the Players Association that it has a plan to keep players safe from the coronavirus." MLB's plan will ask players to take a pay cut, because "at least to begin and possibly all season there will be no fans and, thus, no revenue from ticket sales, parking, concessions and luxury suites" (N.Y. POST, 5/10).
CHALLENGES STILL REMAIN: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jared Diamond noted that "huge challenges stand in the way, including the question of how often players and other personnel will be tested -- and where the resources to do that will come from." MLB will "have to assure the union it has the capability to administer frequent coronavirus screening ... without taking testing capabilities away from front-line workers and more essential sectors of the economy." There also "must be a protocol for what happens if someone contracts Covid-19 -- ideally without shutting down the entire league" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/10). In Boston, Jason Mastrodonato wrote the "key word" for all involved is "flexibility." Safety "will be paramount, but in order to keep everyone safe, the players and owners must stay flexible, allowing for games to be postponed or canceled if there are localized coronavirus outbreaks, stadiums to close temporarily and games to be moved to other locations" (BOSTON HERALD, 5/9). MLB agent Scott Boras, who represents about 100 MLB players, said that none of his clients have "expressed concerns about playing." However, he said that any player with a medical issue that "might put him at risk should be allowed to choose whether he wants to play." Boras: "These contracts aren’t servitude." He explained, "There’s no reason I can see that, if you start in July and you have four months, we shouldn’t be playing 110 to 120 games, minimum. That’s why we negotiated that extra month.” The L.A. TIMES' Shaikin wrote Boras is wary that owners "would try to cut salaries for regular-season games and then expand the postseason, where owners keep almost all of the money" (L.A. TIMES, 5/10).
MONEY MATTERS: In N.Y., Bill Madden wrote in order for there to be a baseball season this year, "three things have to happen: (1) The go-ahead from President Trump’s task force, (2) the approval of all the governors, and (3) an agreement from the players to take further pay cuts if the games are played with no fans." It is the latter that "could be the biggest stumbling block, if you believe all the rhetoric" coming from Boras and other agents. But from a "public relations standpoint, the players do not figure to generate a whole lot of sympathy if they refuse to take pay cuts when millions of Americans are being laid off or taking severe salary cuts" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/10). On Long Island, David Lennon wrote MLB is "looking for payback." For example, MLB umpires already have accepted a "30% salary reduction," while the draft has been cutback as well. Lennon: "This stopped being about baseball as soon as games started getting wiped out." Still, as "difficult as it may be," Lennon believes that MLB and the union can "agree on a workable course to resume this season" (NEWSDAY, 5/10).