MLB owners call for truncated season

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MLB resuming games May 2020 Image: MJR Group Ltd./Coliseum

Major League Baseball (MLB) owners gave the go-ahead to a formal proposal on May 11 calling for a truncated season to begin in early July and operate on a regionalized format, as per industry sources.

Major League Baseball is a professional baseball organization. It is the oldest of the major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada. A total of 30 teams play in Major League Baseball: 15 teams in the National League and 15 in the American League.

Paul T Hanlon of MLB US will be one of the speakers at the Coliseum Summit Europe to be held at Ascot Racecourse in UK on September 2-3, 2020.

The league, which has got delayed due to the outbreak of coronavirus world over, will present the proposal to the MLB Players’ Association that will include an 82-game regular season based on regionalized play in stadiums where local Government nod has been secured, an expansion of the postseason from 10 to 14 teams, and a revived Spring Training that would begin next month.

A universal designated hitter will be a part of the offer, something which has never been done before in the National League, as well as expanded rosters to move from 26 to 30 players with an additional taxi squad. Games would be sans fans, at least to begin with, and focus on each team’s divisional rivals and nearby geographic clubs.

Resuming any type of play for MLB, however, remains subject to the public health crisis being managed to a point where games could be held in a healthy and safe environment.

“We’ll see where we will be in July,” said California Governor Gavin Newsom. The State is home to five MLB clubs, and Newsom has been in regular touch with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. Newsom also doubts fans would be attending sports events in large numbers until and unless a COVID-19 vaccine is developed.

“We certainly look forward to Major League Baseball and all sports resuming. But again, the question is when and that will be determined on the basis of public health and public safety and the spread of this virus.”

The big problem, however, with MLB’s plan is expected to be money. Management is presenting to the players an even 50-50 split of revenues generated during the curtailed season. Historically, that represents a big ideological shift for owners, as any talk by them of allocating defined percentages of revenue within the sport, like other leagues do, has always come with their seeking a salary cap as well. Such a stance led to the cancellation of the 1994 postseason and World Series amid a bitter labor wrangle between owners and players that year and into early 1995.

The Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) has always put up stiff resistance to salary ceilings, floors, any type of defined split of overall revenues or other structure that ties regular season player compensation to club revenues. There is a sharing provision for postseason revenue, but that comprises a much smaller pool of money than during the regular season, and does not involve all players each year given only a certain number of teams qualify for the playoffs.

Going by past records, it is being strongly anticipated that players will reject this initial proposal based on those economics on the apprehension that it could lead to a greater push toward more salary controls in the next round of collective bargaining due to occur in 2021.

Back in March this year, MLB and the MLBPA did agree to a pact regarding various pandemic-related issues, including a marked reduction in players’ pay packets. But, that agreement was based on a lifting on mass gathering and travel curbs that remain broadly in place around the US and Canada, leaving the sides to grapple with the mechanics of playing part or all of the 2020 season with fans and the billions which get generated in the form of gate revenue. Roughly, 40 percent of the more than $10bn MLB gets in the form of gross revenue each year can be attributed to the gate.

Players, meanwhile, remain highly concerned about testing and medical protocols tied to the owners’ resumption proposal.

“We need a plan that seriously considers the health concerns of any players, staff, or workers who are at higher risk,” tweeted Washington Nationals relief pitcher Sean Doolittle.

“We don’t have a vaccine yet, and we don’t really have any effective anti-viral treatments. What happens if there is a second wave [of Covid-19]? Hopefully, we can come up with BOTH a proactive plan focused on prevention AND a reactive plan aimed at containment,” he said.

The Washington Nationals are an American professional baseball team based in Washington, D.C. The Nationals compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the National League (NL) East division.

Sean Robert Doolittle is an American professional baseball pitcher for the Washington Nationals of MLB.

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