Finding Balance Between Game Quantity and Player Safety in Preparation for the MLB Season

Chris Halicke

What will the MLB season look like by the time baseball can continue?

That's a question that has a lot of answers yet to be decided by both Major League Baseball and the Players Association (MLBPA). There are a lot of variables to consider, but one of the most important for both sides will be getting as many games in as possible without putting players at risk. 

MLB wanting to get as close to a full regular season in makes sense in a lot of ways. More games means more ticket sales, merchandise sales, and concessions – all of which means more revenue for each team. Not to mention, more games is a major PR boost as fans clamor for as much baseball as MLB can provide. 

Another major question that branches off that will be how MLB will prorate player salaries. Will it be by the day or will it be by the game total? Service time is typically calculated by the day, but that has been modified for the 2020 season.

The relevance of this issue hinges on how many doubleheaders MLB wants to fit into the revised schedule. Players could play in a more concentrated schedule, having them play more games in a lesser number of days if things get extreme. 

How can MLB and the MLBPA strike a balance between fitting as many games into the schedule without putting players' health at risk? The answer hasn't been decided yet, but discussions have already begun.

"That's one of the things we did talk about with MLB," Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "In talking about the schedule, there's a lot of things we need to put into perspective from both sides." 

Elvis Andrus is the player representative from the Texas Rangers in the players union. He has been involved in the talks between the two sides as they try to figure out what's best for both MLB and the players in deciding how the schedule will look. 

"We're going to try to get as many games as we can play, but at the same time think about the health of us as the players," Andrus said. "We don't want to go crazy and put a bunch of doubleheaders and somebody blows out their arm."

MLB and the players union came to an agreement on a few economic issues last week. The two most notable issues agreed upon were advances on player salaries and service time for the players. 

"Getting the service time, even if the season is canceled, was huge for us," Andrus said. "It's something that we fought for really hard, and it's something that was needed in terms for us to have a deal with MLB."

Teams and players are also facing the possibility of a very abbreviated second spring training. If this coronavirus crisis causes the season to be delayed longer than either side wants, MLB and the players union may be forced to not only put a decent amount of doubleheaders in the schedule, but they also may be forced to only have a week or two to get players ready for the season. That in itself opens up a whole other issue regarding player safety.

To aid with the abbreviated start up, MLB is expected to afford teams with three extra roster spots for the first month of the season. If doubleheaders become a constant in the revised MLB schedule, the MLBPA may fight for expanded rosters for a more extended period of time. 

Both sides still have many issues to work on before the season can begin. In this unique situation, maybe finding common ground between MLB and the players union will be easier than expected. One thing you can hang your hat on is that both sides are ready to play baseball again. 

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