Monday came the first step to getting Major League Baseball back on the field, as MLB owners approved a proposal that Tuesday will be handed off to the players’ union for their approval.
Baseball is the first sport to take this step, and the game could benefit greatly and step up as truly the “great American pastime” if the two sides can agree and get back on the field.
Before you brush off your glove and get ready to watch your favorite team with peanuts and cracker jack, understand that a lot still has to happen for there to be final approval to get games started again.
Here’s a number of things in the proposal that the players could either balk at or want modified before they sign off and get back to playing ball.
No Fans in the Stands
This is an easy one as not having fans at the games for the time being is the most safe way to keep the covid-19 virus in check. Many have speculated that it would not be till some time in 2021 when large groups such as those that come to a ball game would be allowed to gather.
With that, no fans in the stands at the games seems like an easy one that sadly right now is the best way to move forward and continue to practice the safest procedures for all involved.
Shortened 82-Game Season
A fairly easy sell as with games likely not starting till at least early July there’s almost no way to squeeze in a complete 162-game season.
82 games is the number that the NBA play in a normal regular season, with 41 games both home and away. If MLB tries to start on say July 1 and play until the 30 of September, they would have a total 92 days to play 82 games.
There has yet to be chatter about any doubleheaders in the proposed schedule, but it might be necessary due to weather, or if players want to try to get more days off in the three months of the regular season.
14 Playoff Teams
A wrinkle in the postseason is in the proposal by the owners, that being to have seven teams out of both the American League and National League.
A normal season has five teams from each league make the second season, but in this case it would add one more team on each side.
The top team in each league would earn a bye, and the other six teams would battle it out in the first round, and then the top seed would start play in the second round, and then would have to come both the ALCS and NLCS before the World Series.
There was no report on if the first round of games would be a best-of-five or best-of-seven.
Divisional Games Only w/ Interleague possible
With the short season having only divisional games would cut down on travel, therefore again trying to do what the league can to keep all involved as safe as possible.
Yes having to play the Tigers, Royals, Twins and White Sox is going to get a little old (it already does in a normal season when they play 18 times), but there is a chance to see some interleague games as well, with the Tribe playing the NL Central.
If you play each divisional rival 16 times (eight at home and eight on the road) it would equal out to 64 games, leaving 18 games for interleague play.
With five teams in the NL Central, it’s possible to play four of the teams three times each, and you could play your NL rival, in this case for the Indians it would be the Cincinnati Reds, six times, three in Cincinnati and three at Progressive Field.
Universal Designated Hitter
American League teams would love this proposal, as it would mean no longer having to use up any time during June’s “second” spring training having pitchers hit or bunt.
This rule makes a lot of sense for the 2020 season, and while it could be a one-year thing, it fits the short season and the format of the way things are shaping up to try and get the game back on the field by early July.
Rosters expanded to 30
This is one that very much could help the Indians, as just having a few extra bodies on the roster could help in otherwise tough roster decisions.
We’ve written in the past on the likes of if Bobby Bradley could make the Indians roster, but throw in a few extra roster spots and one would think that having him available as a DH or a pinch-hitter late in the game could pay off.
Then there’s the opportunity to have a few extra arms in the pen as well, a position that is going to look somewhat different in 2020 and beyond with the new “three batter rule,” where a reliever has to stay in the game for three batters.
This one would be hard to see the players balking at, since it would mean more players on Major League rosters making Major League money.
20-Man “Practice Squad”
This is an interesting one as there is no real clarity as to what a “practice squad” in baseball would mean.
Likely it would mean something to do with minor league players who possibly could make the step to the Major League team quickly if need be, but again it’s fuzzy as to what the wording of this part of the proposal would represent.
50-50 Revenue Split w/ players (according to ESPN)
There is no question that most of the other proposals on the list can be worked around with a little give and take, but this is obviously going to be the biggest roadblock to getting the game back on the field.
As ESPN pointed out on Monday, “a straight revenue split been part of the game's finances. The MLBPA is almost certain to reject that element of the proposal and counter that a March agreement between the parties guaranteed players a prorated portion of their salaries, depending on the number of games played.”
The players point of view likely will include the fact they already agreed in March to taking less money, and now with this 50-50 revenue split they are likely in line to lose more money.
There’s going to have to be a lot of give and take between the two sides, and things could get nasty as they normally do when it comes to money, but hopefully and eventually the two sides can agree which gets us that much closer to baseball returning to the playing fields.