MLB Prepares For Unprecedented Season After Months Of Negotiations
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred plans to unilaterally impose a 60-game regular season schedule if the MLBPA agrees to health and safety protocols and a July 1 Spring Training start date, and the union in a statement yesterday said that it "anticipated finalizing the protocols 'in the coming days,'" according to Rosenthal & Drellich of THE ATHLETIC. The plan of the commissioner's office to play 60 games "might be contingent" on the union meeting the league's 5:00pm ET deadline today, with the "potential number of games dropping if it does not." The season as "currently envisioned by the league would take place over 66 days." Barring an "unexpected change, the abbreviated season will not include an expanded postseason or advertising patches on player jerseys, although the designated hitter could still arrive in the National League this year to protect pitcher health." Some on the players' side "see the outcome as a relative victory, believing that because they are still poised to play 60 games ... they effectively called the league's bluff." Players also believe owners "underestimated their unity" (THEATHLETIC.com, 6/22).
MORE DETAILS: ESPN.com's Passan & Rogers wrote the 60-game season "could serve as a buffer against a grievance by the MLBPA, which in the case of a potential implementation has been expected to charge that the league did not fulfill its duty to complete as full a season as possible" (ESPN.com, 6/22). In N.Y., Davidoff & Sherman write Manfred "wanted to avoid" having to unilaterally impose a season because: "1) It opens up both sides to file grievances against the other for bargaining in bad faith; 2) It could lead to star players opting out as a result of the ill will; and 3) It doesn't feature the lucrative extra postseason contests" (N.Y. POST, 6/23).
AT WHAT COST? USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale writes there "finally will be a season, but the acrimony sure has sucked the soul out of the joy" of yesterday's announcement. There will be "long-term damage worth hundreds of millions of dollars caused by the impact of this stalemate" (USA TODAY, 6/23). The N.Y. POST's Joel Sherman writes baseball has "never needed to change the conversation more." This dispute "has been devastating to MLB's image short and long term." Sherman: "So no hiccups of hostility now." There is "nothing more important for the sides to do than finalize the protocols to be able to try to play with the most precautions possible in a pandemic." This is "not about ending the hatred," it is about "putting it on hiatus for a bit" (N.Y. POST, 6/23).
COLLATERAL DAMAGE: On Long Island, David Lennon writes the owners and players "reduced their loyal customers to collateral damage while squandering a golden opportunity to be something bigger than the game during this pandemic" (NEWSDAY, 6/23). YAHOO SPORTS' Tim Brown writes what "comes next is an inch-by-inch, second-by-second accounting for fretful symptoms and who touched what when" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/23). In Chicago, Gordon Wittenmyer wrote, "This is what we've all been waiting for all this time? For all 88 days since the sides reached agreement on basic financial parameters? For all 42 days since MLB reopened talks with its first detailed proposal, including the health protocols?" (NBCSPORTSCHICAGO.com, 6/22). ESPN's Jeff Passan noted MLB will be returning "amid the NBA playoffs and amid the start of the NFL season," and it has a "very good chance of getting lost." The "damage that was done here is as much to the brand and the idea of baseball as the game itself” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 6/23).
COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE: In L.A., Bill Plaschke writes this season "will be weird and hurried and might end abruptly or badly." There "should be a lasting stain on this season from the rancor of owners and players that led up to it." Plaschke: "But even this will pass" (L.A. TIMES, 6/23).