MLB owners and players discussing potential return

Holly Hunter, Staff Reporter

Major League Baseball (MLB) owners made a proposal on Monday, May 11 for the season to start by early July. According to ESPN Baseball Insider Jeff Passan, nothing is official yet, but some main aspects of the proposal include a shortened season to 82 games, a playoff expansion from 10 to 14 teams, certain home stadium usage with approval from local and state governments, a universal designated hitter and much more. 

The MLB expects the different aspects of the proposal to be an ongoing negotiation between the league and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA). 

“Although MLB could benefit long term from being the first American team sport to return amid the coronavirus pandemic, the logistics of starting the season remain convoluted and require player support,” Passan said. 

Money could be an issue as the proposal tries to move forward. Sources told ESPN that a plan to help with financial loss could include a 50-50 revenue split with players. It’s almost a guarantee that the MLB players association would reject the revenue split, according to Passan. 

The MLB is the only U.S sport that does not have a team salary cap, so a revenue split has never had to be considered. Instead, sources say the MLBPA is most likely going to counter with an agreement that gives players a prorated portion of their salaries depending on how many games they play. 

“The ability to strike a financial deal could mean the difference between a baseball season and one that is canceled,” Passan said. 

Players will express their concerns about the MLB’s handling of testing, and making sure there’s a safe working environment when they meet with owners, according to sources. 

Along with the shortened season and expanded playoffs, the proposal includes an updated schedule to give teams a chance to play non divisional opponents that are closest to them geographically. 

Passan said the playoff expansion would increase team revenue due to the upward of 40% of a team’s revenue coming from ticket sales and other gate-related income.

There’s a plan in place to move teams to other cities if the state and local officials don’t allow for a return by the time July comes around. The MLB commissioner, Rob Manfred, has been calling governors to speak about baseball’s return, multiple sources told ESPN. 

Players have some different views and concerns about this proposal as they begin negotiations with the league. Washington Nationals relief pitcher Sean Doolittle already turned to social media to express what he would like to see in the proposal. He talks about protecting not only players but the vast amount of other employees who make baseball run smoothly. 

“How many tests do we need to safely play during a pandemic? And not just tests for players. Baseball requires a massive workforce besides the players. Coaches, clubhouse staff, security, grounds crews, umpires, gameday stadium staff, TV and media…we need to protect everyone,” Doolittle said. “And that’s before we get to hotel workers and transportation workers (pilots, flight attendants, bus drivers). They are essential workers. We wouldn’t be able to play a season without them, and they deserve the same protections.”

Dootlittle also said even though 80% of COVID-19 cases only show mild symptoms, he wouldn’t want anybody involved with baseball to be in the 20% who have more extreme symptoms. He said one feels like too many. 

He finished his thoughts saying with no vaccine yet and the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19, he wants a health plan focused on prevention and some kind of reactive plan focused on containment if there was an outbreak of the virus in baseball. 

“Hopefully these concerns will be addressed in MLB’s proposal, first and foremost,” Doolittle said. “One, what’s the plan to ethically acquire enough tests? Two, what’s the protocol if a player, staff member or worker contracts the virus? We want to play. And we want everyone to stay safe.”