When asked when the 2020 MLB Season will begin, most of my friends and colleagues are skeptical about seeing any baseball at all this year. I'm not quite that skeptical, but in light of the coronavirus concerns, it's reasonable to have doubts.
If you're wondering whether the MLB Player's Association and Commissioner Rob Manfred have a timetable in mind, there is a glimmer of hope. ESPN reporter and MLB Insider Jeff Passan shared on social media that Major League Baseball and the MLBPA have a deal in the works.
The deal is tentative at this point. The players have already voted, but it is expected that the owners will vote to ratify the agreement soon.
According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports, the goal of the deal is to open a way for the 2020 MLB season to get in as many games as possible this year, even if they have to push the World Series to late November. Obviously, such an optimistic outlook depends on the status of the pandemic.
As with any sport, economics is the central factor in negotiations and plans. With a shortened season, how does the MLB satisfy the players' questions about pay? How do they keep ballparks open and pay employees? Then you also have questions about service time rules and free agency for a number of players. Those are just a handful of a myriad of questions facing Major League Baseball.
A portion of the deal, according to Passan, allows players like Mookie Betts, Trevor Bauer, and others, to become Free Agents in November (when expected), even though they might not have the required service time to reach FA status.
According to Nightengale, there were a number of other important discussions in the deal that are important for both players and fans.
- The stated goal is to play at least 100 games in 2020.
- Regular season games will be played through October with weekly doubleheaders
- Possible expansion the current playoff format to help offset income loss
- Keeping the amateur draft on-schedule for this summer, but reducing the number of rounds from 40 to five. Bonuses would be deferred.
- Teams have pledged to pay players on their 40-man rosters a lump sum of $170 million in upfront money based on a sliding scale with service time.
- Teams are likely to open the season with expanded rosters for the first month, meaning that instead of the normal 26-man rosters, teams would have 30 players.
At this point, the goal is to have the season start as early as June 1 or July 1. Whether or not fans are in the stands if one of those opening day dates occurs remains to be seen.
Baseball fans would love to see the 2020 season get underway as soon as possible, but it is difficult at this point to approach any plan without skepticism. With coronavirus cases increasing in the United States and up to over a CDC reported 68,000+ and growing, we can only hope we find a way to get a handle on the situation soon. The safety of players, employees, umpires, and most of all fans, is paramount.