Baseball fans unite, take some deep breaths, and smile: baseball is officially back.
After months of hurdles and disagreements, MLB and the Players Association agreed to allow players to report to Spring Training 2.0 by July 1 and begin the 60-game 2020 season around July 23 or July 24. The league is aiming to cut off the season around Sept. 27.
The final hurdle for both sides was an agreement on new health and safety protocols, which was cleared Tuesday night. This is a big step after spring training was initially stopped over three months ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Monday evening, all 30 MLB owners unanimously voted to implement the original March 26 agreement with the players’ union, which highlights the 60-game season after commissioner Rob Manfred rejected the union’s 70-game proposal last weekend. After the vote, the ball flew to the union’s side of the field as they were given a deadline of 5:00 p.m. ET today to state whether players would be able to report to camps by July 1 and if they agreed to follow the health and safety protocols.
Most training camps will be held in teams’ ballparks in their home cities.
The players took another victory aside from saving the season as they avoided waiving their right to file a grievance. They successfully retained their right, although the league could also file one against the union.
Players will receive full prorated shares of their salaries as part of the March agreement, which is around 37 percent of full-season salaries, summing up to an approximate $1.5 billion total across the league. The postseason will remain with its original 10-team format and players will receive no money from playoff action. It is expected that the universal designated hitter will stay in place due to the new health and safety protocol.
According to the press release, a majority of the season will feature divisional play with the remaining portion playing against a club’s opposite league’s geographical division (AL West vs. NL Wast, AL Central vs. NL Central, and AL East vs. NL East) to limit travel. ESPN also reports that teams will not wear advertising patches on uniforms as originally part of the March agreement, along with on-field microphones.
As for the fans, all it took was one confirmed tweet from the MLBPA as a sign of victory for the players and sport as a whole, meaning that it’s time to relax and prepare for a unique season of play.
“All remaining issues have been resolved and players are reporting to training camps,” the union posted.
You may even want to hang that tweet up on a wall since it’s arguably a historical moment for baseball and sports. Who else can say that you anxiously awaited the stake of America’s pastime dictated by a professional league and global pandemic?
This, indeed, is a historical moment in sports industry: no one has covered sports during a pandemic prior to 2020 nor has anyone played without the presence of fans.
However, the fact that both parties ultimately agreed to a proposal to save the 2020 season shows that they looked and focused on the long-term effect more than the short-term. Economically speaking, this is a positive sign as the league turns its attention to the 2021 CBA negotiations.
Sure, there won’t be many hugs and fist-bumps after a home run. There won’t be fans singing their hearts out to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch. There will be cleaning and safety warnings plastered all around.
However, the players will still be playing for fans as they watch and root for their favorite teams at home.
Remember, this is a temporary moment in sports and will not last forever. With that being said, it’s time to pop some popcorn, cook a hot dog, and play ball.