After months of waiting followed by weeks of squabbling, the time has probably come for a final decision on the 2020 season.
And barring a last-minute change of heart by the owners and players who have been refusing to budge from their most recent offers, it appears the sport is destined for a short season unilaterally mandated by commissioner Rob Manfred, which will probably be met with a formal grievance filed by the Major League Baseball Players Association.
What, you thought this saga was going to have a happy ending?
According to USA Today, the union’s eight-member executive subcommittee (a group that includes Max Scherzer) and 30 individual team representatives met Saturday and positioned themselves to hold a formal vote and reject Manfred’s take-it-or-leave-it offer of a 60-game regular season at full prorated pay, plus an expanded postseason and universal designated hitter in both 2020 and 2021. That formal vote could come as soon as today, and barring an unexpected turn of events, the outcome appears predetermined.
If and when the union turns down the 60-game offer, Manfred will be left with little choice but to mandate the length of the season to the players. He’s expected to implement a regular season of roughly 50 games, one that would not begin until late July or even early August. Players would receive their full prorated salaries, but the postseason format would remain unchanged from 2019 because the commissioner doesn’t have the right to change that without union approval.
Among the reasons the players aren’t willing to make a deal is the realization they would have to waive their right to a grievance. If they let Manfred dictate terms of the season, they retain the ability to seek legal recourse, claiming the commissioner won’t have adhered to the terms of their March 26 agreement that requires him to schedule as many games as possible in 2020.
Of course, the number of games that will be possible this season remains very much up in the air, not because of this bitter labor fight but because of the ongoing fear the novel coronavirus could force another shutdown of operations at any point.
The biggest news to emerge from the baseball world over the weekend wasn’t labor-related, but rather health-related. Players and staffers from several MLB clubs, including eight from the Phillies, tested positive or showed symptoms of COVID-19 in recent days, prompting all 30 clubs to shut down their spring training facilities in Florida and Arizona until all could undergo deep cleaning. No one will be allowed back into those facilities without first testing negative for the virus.
With overall cases rising in Florida and Arizona, MLB is rightfully concerned about opening up camps to full squads in the next week as originally hoped for the three-week training sessions that are necessary before the season can begin.
Most teams are likely to hold their versions of spring training 2.0 in their home ballparks, not in Florida or Arizona. The Nationals have been preparing to hold their camp at Nationals Park, according to club sources, but that decision isn’t official yet and is predicated on local government and health officials giving them permission.