It’s a go.
As much as anything in these times can be.
As expected, the Major League Baseball Players Association on Tuesday agreed to report for spring training by July 1, with the intent of starting a 60-game regular season the weekend of July 24-26. The MLBPA and Major League Baseball, the worst of enemies historically and especially in recent weeks as negotiations played out publicly, on Tuesday night agreed on health and safety protocols to green-light the return to play.
“All remaining issues have been resolved and Players are reporting to training camps,” the union tweeted.
MLB said in a news release that it has submitted a 60-game regular-season schedule for review by the Players Association. The schedule implemented by commissioner Rob Manfred comes after the MLBPA overwhelmingly rejected, by a 33-5 vote, what had been MLB’s most recent proposal.
Over the weekend, along with the reported anticipation of players doing exactly what they did on Monday, came the news that all teams would conduct Spring Training II in their home ballparks, meaning the Yankees will train at Yankee Stadium and the Mets will train at Citi Field.
Despite Monday's vote, an agreement reached on March 26 between the two sides allows Manfred to implement a schedule of his choosing should an agreement on the construction of a season prove elusive.
Because a mutually agreed upon deal wasn't reached as owners wanted to reopen the idea of paying 100% of prorated salaries, a change that was a non-starter for the players, some of the off-the-beaten-path elements proposed by both sides during the negotiations are unlikely to occur.
Among those that won’t be a part of the 2020 season and would have been sources of additional revenue, primarily for owners: expanded playoffs – 16 teams from the standard 10 – and advertisements on uniforms. An element from those talks that will be a part of the season are an updated 108-page health and safety protocol manual sent to teams June 20 It is similar to the 67-page health and safety manual distributed May 15 but with some changes and/or additions. Also National League teams will join the American League in using a designated hitter throughout the regular season and postseason. Additionally, according to the June 20 manual, a copy of which was obtained by Newsday, if any game goes extra innings, a runner will be placed on second base to start the inning.
There are a myriad of changes in the manual, including:
• The three-batter minimum for a pitcher, supposed to be instituted this season, still will be in effect.
• No limits on position players pitching
• Pitchers can carry “a small wet rag in their back pocket to be used for moisture in lieu of licking their fingers. Water is the only substance allowed on the rag.”
• The trade deadline, typically July 31, will be Aug. 31.
• Teams can bring up to 60 players, defined in the manual as the “Club Player Pool,” to spring training. Those in the Pool not invited to spring training will be “directed to the Alternate Training Site,” according to the manual. The sites “must be (a) located sufficiently close to the location where the Club will play its home games during the championship season that commercial air travel is not required; and (b) fully separated from the facility where players on the Active Roster will train and play.”
• Opening Day rosters will contain 30 active players but will be trimmed to 28 on the 15th day of the season and 26 on the 29th of the season.
• Each team “must establish a specific COVID-19 Emergency Action Plan,” the memo states. The plan “must contain, among other things, specific procedures for isolating, transporting, testing and treating any (individuals) who display potential symptoms of or test positive for COVID-19. Even with the agreement, potential stumbling blocks remain, not the least of which is the yet-to-be-controlled virus, whose numbers continue to explode in certain states – Florida, Texas, Arizona and California to name a handful. Additionally, and it’s not immediately clear as to just how many, some players in the last month expressed reservations about taking the field even in the event of an agreement.
That concern was amplified as four more members of the Phillies organization tested positive for the coronavirus, adding to the five players and three staff members who tested positive last week.