While the NBA is strongly considering a bubble league played out at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, baseball has a much different decision on its hands when it comes to restarting play amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Tension between owners and the MLBPA have centered around just how much salary the former will try to withhold from the latter as the traditional early months of the MLB calendar pass by without games played and, by extension, revenue coming in.
According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the league intends to send players and their union an official proposal about potentially starting the 2020 season, which was shut down amid spring training in March as the severity of coronavirus solidified in North America. Initial plans were of an 80-game season with an expanded postseason, and teams playing regionally to limit travel.
In the days that followed that initial report, however, players bristled at taking the brunt of paycuts as owners remained vague about their potential losses in a season almost certain not to include fans in attendance.
The decision-makers who answer that question are professionally skeptical because they can’t afford to trade in optimism, but they see a pathway to a deal. There will be late nights, countless Zoom calls, horse-trading and compromise. The entire operation is fragile. And the coming days are paramount.
“Everything,” one high-ranking official involved in the discussions said, “is going to happen next week.”
Things are complicated for baseball for a variety of reasons, but perhaps the most important thing to note in Passan’s piece is the very real reality that there may not be any baseball in 2020 if the two sides are unable to agree on a deal. Losing an entire season of baseball would be disappointing for fans, damaging to the league and would certainly limit the earning potential and careers of active players in a variety of ways. But changing the structure of baseball itself in order to get an abridged season in this summer is also a complicated piece of a negotiation between the league and the union, which haven’t had the best relationship in recent years for a variety of reasons.
Adding into all of this, of course, is the concerns about the health and safety of players, coaches and essential staff in putting a season on in the first place. It’s all complicated, for sure, but the report indicates that things will get settled one way or another in a matter of days.