There may be differing points of view on what it means based on your level of cynicism, but here’s what we know: MLB owners have approved a plan to possibly return in July, and that plan will be presented to players tomorrow.
It’s a step forward, but there’s still plenty of questions on whether the players will accept the deal. The nuts and bolts of the proposal, as first reported by Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY:
- 82-game schedule with an Opening Day between July 1-4
- ‘Spring Training 2.0’ training camps begin sometime in June, with teams having the option of returning to their spring facilities or staying in their home parks
- Usual 6-division alignment will remain, but teams will only play games within their division and that division in the other league — so the Brewers’ schedule would be made up of the Cubs, Cardinals, Reds, Pirates, Twins, Indians, White Sox, Royals and Tigers.
- Because of the increased amount of interleague games, there will be a universal DH
- 14 playoff teams, with hopes of finishing the year no later than the first week of November
- Active rosters will have 30 players, with a 20-man “taxi squad” made up of minor leaguers
- Owners will share league revenue with the players
Nightengale was first told the revenue split — common in other leagues, but a first for MLB — would be 52/48, with the owners getting the majority of the profits, but that was changed to 50/50 when the owners voted on the proposal.
The revenue split is the part of the deal that would appear to be designed to make further salary reductions for players more easy to swallow. The players’ union already agreed in March to have their salaries prorated in exchange for being granted a full year of service time if the season is canceled, and union head Tony Clark has made it clear that asking for any further pay cuts would be a non-starter.
The idea of splitting revenue with the players may appear to be a way for some of that money to be recouped, but the devil may be in the details. Since nobody knows what kind of revenue would actually be made playing these games (especially with no fans in the stands to supply additional income through tickets, concessions, parking, etc.), there’s a chance — perhaps even a good chance, if you’re cynical (or just trust the owners wouldn’t offer this without running the numbers themselves) — that teams would still end up paying less than if they would just pay the players their prorated salaries.
At the very least, the league is likely setting up a situation where the players get the public relations blowback if they don’t accept the plan and baseball doesn’t happen in 2020.
As Ken Rosenthal noted earlier Monday, there’s also other things to consider when it comes to a return dealing with the safety of the players — especially those with underlying conditions that would leave them more at-risk for COVID-19. Those details — as well as how to handle what happens when a player tests positive in the middle of the season — would (or at least should) be an important part of the conversation as well.
The two sides will meet Tuesday to continue negotiating.