- The Washington Times - Monday, May 11, 2020

Major League Baseball will present a plan Tuesday to the player’s union that could lead to a launch of the delayed 2020 season around the Fourth of July with games played without fans.

The proposal, which owners agreed upon Monday, calls for spring training to resume in June, followed by an opening day and a shortened-regular season that will begin the following month. The plan calls for teams to play 82 games each against division opponents and interleague matchups limited to AL East vs. NL East, AL Central vs. NL Central and AL West vs. NL West to reduce travel.

MLB also wants to implement a universal designated hitter for the year and expand the playoff field to as many as 14 teams, doubling the number of wild card teams in each league.

As part of a potential deal, it has been suggested that players and teams will share 50-50 split of revenue during the regular season and postseason — a first for the sport as MLB does not have a revenue-sharing system implemented under its collective bargaining agreement.

If the two sides agree, MLB would be the first major North American league to resume during the coronavirus pandemic. Over the weekend, the UFC held an event without fans in Jacksonville, Florida, while NASCAR is set to begin again next week. Globally, the Korean Baseball Organization also held its opening day last week after a five-week delay.



MLB’s plan calls for the games to be played at each team’s home stadiums, but accounts for contingencies such as a switch to spring training stadiums or neutral sites if medical and government approvals can’t be obtained. Toronto might have to play home games in Dunedin, Florida.

Eventually, the plan also calls for fans to return to ballparks, possibly with a small percentage of seats sold at first and then expanding should the conditions be clear.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has said that 40% of revenue is tied to live gate, including concessions, luxury suites and other factors like advertising.

Still, the plan is not guaranteed to pass when owners present it Tuesday. Prominent players like Washington’s Sean Doolittle have already voiced concerns over any restart plan.

In a tweet thread, Doolittle said he felt MLB had “zoomed past” health protections for players, families, staff, stadium workers and others.

“How many tests do we need to safely play during a pandemic?” Doolittle tweeted. “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.”

“We need to consider what level of risk we’re willing to assume,” Doolittle tweeted.

If play starts up again, rosters would expand from 26 to 30 players. The league also plans to have an NFL-like practice squad, consisting of 20 players as the minor leagues would remain shuttered.

MLB had previously reached an agreement with the players’ union in late March that called for players to receive a $170 million advance on their 2020 salaries and agreed to be paid a portion of their salary dependent on how many games are played.

It is not clear how MLB would plan to test the league’s hundreds of players for COVID-19 or what would happen should a player test positive. In South Korea, players and coaches are tested regularly and have their temperatures checked daily.

St. Louis Cardinals reliever Andrew Miller, a member of the union’s executive board, told ESPN a deal can’t be reached until players’ safety can be guaranteed.

“We want to put a good product on the field, but that’s totally secondary to the health of the players,” Miller said. “We are generally younger and healthier, but that doesn’t mean our staff is, that doesn’t mean the umpires are going to be in the clear.”

“It’s not hard to get one degree of separation away from players who have kids who may have conditions, or other family members that live with them. I’m confident before anything happens, we’ll sort through all those issues.”

The U.S. won’t be able to test “millions of people” until the fall, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci.

• Staff writer Adam Zielonka contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire reports.

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