While speculation has ranged wildly on how Major League Baseball will try to navigate some form of a 2020 season, there has been a distinct lack of concrete action to follow it. We’ve heard proposals ranging from a quarantine league using spring facilities in Arizona, one that expanded to include the spring facilities in Florida, and even saw Texas looped into discussions, but the length, format, and even locale for how baseball will return during the COVID-19 pandemic have still been up in the air.
That might change as early as tomorrow, however.
In an update earlier this weekend, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic outlined some very specific parameters for how the 2020 season will look, details that are expected to be relayed to MLB team owners in a thorough conference call on Monday. And as Rosenthal notes, if the collective of owners agrees to the details, MLB is expected to formally relay the proposal to the MLB Players Association by Tuesday, thereby putting the wheels officially in motion to the return of Major League Baseball in July.
There are umpteen hurdles to still clear here, of course, the largest of which will most certainly revolve around money. The MLBPA previously agreed to a pro-rated salary scale for however the 2020 season unfolds, but the latest rumblings suggest that in lieu of the expectation that no fans will be in attendance for games this year, owners are going to ask for further concessions from the players. As Hardball Talk’s Craig Calcaterra noted, that’s sitting horribly with the players for a number of reasons, primarily because they a) already agreed to a modified deal covering a would-be 2020 season and b) it’s the players, not the owners, who will putting their health at risk by traveling, playing, and plying their trade in the first place.
Not to mention that any and all MLB/MLBPA concessions made this year will absolutely set precedent for the inevitable Collective Bargaining Agreement discussions that will need to take place prior to the end of the 2021 season. Any and all moves made now - including the borderline treacherous decision to shorten the 2020 MLB Draft to a meager 5 rounds - will still likely have lasting impacts far beyond just 2020, and that’s a major factor in any agreement to get this season going.
The gist of what a 2020 season, though, is a pretty reasonable one, all told. It’ll be divided into a trio of 10 team ‘divisions’ that will function more as three different leagues, really. An East, Central, and West will exist as combinations of the AL and NL clubs in those regions, with a regular season of roughly ~80 games scheduled to be played in those clubs home parks, if possible - Toronto and the US/Canada travel restrictions might be the biggest complicating factor at the moment, as Rosenthal pointed out. Division-only play would exhaust the regular season slate of games, but an expansion to 7 teams per league for the playoffs would also be a major nuance.
(How they would go from combined AL/NL divisions back to AL playoff reps and NL playoff reps is a bit confusing to me, but whatever...it’d be baseball.)
Anyhoo, this all still will need to be agreed upon in full by a number of important parties, and then the whole global pandemic thing will need to calm its chops appropriately throughout to allow this plan to come to fruition. In other words, there are still good odds that any baseball season we see in 2020 won’t end up looking like this, even if this is the agreed-upon plan come July. The hurdles just to get it started are immense, but what’s largely flying a bit under the radar is just how many hurdles will have to repeatedly be cleared once it begins just to keep it going safely until there’s actually a World Series.
Still, we’re about to at least make the transition from nebulous hope to concrete hope, and at least that’ll give us something more tangible on which to lay our expectations for the 2020 Cincinnati Reds season. And heck, if this plan holds true, there will be no 10 game West Coast road trip to inevitably derail their chances this time around.