After weeks of back and forth between players and owners and months of waiting out the public health crisis, there were big steps taken towards the start of a 2020 MLB season on Monday night. The league announced in a statement that it will be moving forward with implementing a 2020 schedule.
Monday’s news was not the product of any agreement between owners and players to resolve differences that they have been negotiating over for some time. Earlier on Monday, the players voted down a recent ownership proposal that would have required concessions from players in order to end up with probably the same number of games (60)as will happen under MLB’s unilateral implementation of a 2020 schedule.
MLB’s statement indicated that there are two remaining things to resolve. They want to know from the union whether players can report to spring training 2.0 by July 1. This is necessary to know when they can reasonably begin an abbreviated regular season. Also, the league wants to know whether players will agree to a series of health and safety protocols that will maximize the chances of being able to complete a season even in the midst of COVID-19.
MASN’s Roch Kubatko and other baseball reporters indicated that the league’s goal is to begin a 60-game regular season the weekend of July 24-26.
Since there was no agreement between players and owners over the weeks of negotiating, this means that some of the proposed changes for the 2020 and 2021 seasons will not take place after all. There will not be two years of a universal DH, and it seems that things like an increased roster of up to 30 players as well as expanded playoffs are out the window as well. Everyone’s dreams of the Orioles fluking their way into the postseason are now even more of a longshot.
It’s impossible to say, even with this announcement, that baseball will absolutely, definitely be back in a month and that it will be able to play all the way through even this shortened season and subsequent postseason. The union letting the league know about both the report date and the health and safety protocols could turn out to be more than just a formality.
Even if everything goes smoothly with that, there’s no way to know what’s going to be happening with the spread of the virus in a month. Trend lines are currently going the wrong way in states that account for about a third of MLB. If that continues to be the case in a month, even baseball in empty stadiums could be a dodgy proposition.
Still, we’re closer to there being a 2020 season at any point than we have been since spring training was abruptly halted back in March. There’s been a lot that’s felt discouraging about baseball as the ultimately fruitless June negotiations played out, but I’ll be happy when it’s able to make it back and I hope there aren’t any further bumps in the road to keep that from happening.