The Major League Baseball Players Association informed the league that players will comply with the league’s imposed outline for a 2020 season. On July 1 players will report for another version of “spring” training, which will be a 3 week stint. Following the 3 week spring training and 3 exhibition games, the MLB regular season will start on July 24th.
The resumption of play is great news for the fans. We are actually getting baseball, and it will be there first of the 4 major sports to return to play. But the owners and players are far from happy in this shotgun marriage of a baseball season.
The league and players failed to reach a modified agreement for a 2020 season after weeks of negotiation. The players were pushing for prorated salary, upwards of 70 games, and other contractual perks. As for the owners, they were pushing for a 50-60 game schedule, an expanded playoff format, and players to wear microphones during games to spark TV interest.
With the imposed 60 game season, neither side truly wins. The players lose out on receiving 105% of their salary, and the DH is both leagues for this year and next. The owners arguably lose more. The lost revenue of an expanded playoffs is substantial. But they have no-one to blame but themselves for the hard ball negotiations they’ve had for weeks.
To talk about actual sports, let’s picture what the season will look like.
“Spring” training will be very odd for a few reasons. Many teams are holding it at their home ball parks, rather than the training facilities in Florida and Arizona. It doesn’t seem like a huge deal but it is. Major league parks have at most 6 mounds to throw off of. A high part of spring training is getting pitchers arms strong for the season. Having roughly 40-60 players on the spring roster, more than half being pitchers, it will be hard to workout all arms equally.There will have to be split sections, and overtime for coaches to ensure each pitcher is ready by July 24th.
For the hitters, the battle to full strength will be just as difficult. Pitchers have been able to throw during the shutdown, even during quarantine. All pitchers need is a throwing partner. Hitters will be at a disadvantage since they haven’t hit off of major league pitching since at least March 11th, and likely longer than that. Being able to get enough at bats in a limited 3 week window will rear its ugly head when the regular season begins.
Speaking of the regular season, it will be a 60 game sprint, not the usual 162 game marathon.
This will create the chance for some unusual things to happen. The projections coming into the season, pre Covid outbreak, has the Yankees and Dodgers in the World Series. With the trust of a schedule, one bad week can send the expected top teams into the cellars. One bad week of baseball could be too much to overcome in a short schedule. On the flip side, a team like the Marlins could play very good baseball for a stretch and find themselves in the postseason.
Weird things have a chance to play out, but we can’t call foul on it. Everyone is playing under the same rules, and let’s be honest, nothing about 2020 has been fair.
Health willing, there will be a champion crowned in October, MVP’s and Cy Young winners in both leagues, but somethings won’t be resolved with playing games.
The relationship between owners and players is beyond toxic. Neither side is happy with this outcome, and each side blames the opposition. While us fans salivate at the thought of live baseball, don’t lose focus that the future of the sport weighs in the balance of these two sides coming together within the next 12-18 month.
The 60 game imposed season solves nothing other than getting on the field this season.