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MLB Agrees to Resume with a 60 Game Season

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It wasn’t too long ago when soap operas ruled midday television. One of the more interesting aspects of these shows was to have storylines that went on for weeks and weeks at a time. We recently witnessed such a storyline with the continuing negotiations between the MLB owners and the players union. But now, that drama is over as both sides have signed off on a 60 games season that will start toward the end of July.

The announcement by MLB came while more players continue to test positive for the virus as at least seven on the Philadelphia Phillies have done. And a stark realization remained, that if health situations deteriorate, all games could still be wiped out.

Players will start reporting for the resumption of training on July 1. It remains to be seen which players will report back to work. High-risk individuals are allowed to opt-out and still receive salary and service time, but others who sit out get neither money nor the service credit needed for eligibility for free agency and salary arbitration. It is planned to start playing games around July 23 or 24, mostly in empty stadiums. Late on Wednesday, the players union signed off on the health and safety protocols that will be involved in the return.

Players are being given staggered reporting times over several days for their health screening. The time will be used for coronavirus testing ahead of the resumption of workouts, which were stopped March 12 due to the pandemic.

Each team will play 10 games against each of its four division rivals and 20 total games against the five clubs in the corresponding regional division in the other league, according to details obtained. This will be MLB’s shortest season since 1878.

Both side agreed to expand the designated hitter to games between National League teams for the first time and instituted the radical innovation of starting extra innings with a runner on second base. Playoff teams remain at 10 for now with the talk of a possible expansion. The rejected deal had called for 16 teams.

To accommodate the unusual season, the active rosters will be 30 players during the first two weeks of the season, 28 during the second two weeks and 26 after that. They will not expand to 28 on Sept. 1, as originally intended this year. As there will be no minor leagues this season, teams would be allowed to retain 60 players each, including a taxi squad. Up to three players from the taxi squad can travel with a team to a game, and one of the three must be a catcher. Also, MLB is keeping the planned innovation that pitchers must face three batters or finish a half-inning. The injured list minimum for pitchers will remain 10 days rather than revert to 15, as initially intended.

How will the public react to each of the sides when baseball resumes?

Public opinion ripped both sides as they locked in a contentious financial battle during a pandemic that has led to more than 120,000 deaths and 2.3 million infections in the U.S. and led to a 14.7% unemployment rate, the highest since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

MLB became extremely frustrated with the union’s leadership team, headed by former All-Star first baseman Tony Clark and Bruce Meyer, a litigator hired in August 2018. Manfred and Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem were extremely agitated when Clark said he considered the result of a one-on-one meeting with Manfred last week a proposal rather than what MLB termed a framework for a deal.

The relationship deteriorated back to the level of bitter labor disputes that led to eight work stoppages from 1972-95.  The union has also threatened a grievance claiming MLB didn’t fulfill the provision in the March deal requiring the longest season economically feasible, conditioned by several other provisions. MLB would claim the union bargained in bad faith, and the case would be argued before arbitrator Mark Irvings.

That would be a prelude to the expiration of the current labor contract on Dec. 1, 2021, which likely will be followed by a lockout.

While this soap opera will play out some form in the coming months, at least the fans eager to see any baseball this year can look forward to the new opening day.

 

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