We long ago heard rumors of the hub-bubble idea, one that would see MLB teams in communes in the Phoenix area in order to play one another at spring training facilities to get the 2020 season underway. We later heard of a modification of that plan, one that would split the MLB clubs between both Arizona and Florida spring facilities, and even saw Texas looped into the pod-proposal.
While each of those scenarios had certain bits of merit mixed in with their overriding implausibility, it was at least clear that MLB and the MLBPA were actively trying to figure out how the hell to actually play baseball as we begin to emerge from this pandemic. Well, according to multiple outlets in the last day - including ESPN’s Jeff Passan - MLB clubs are beginning to gear up for baseball’s return at some point in early July.
Teams are telling players to get ready and get in shape. MLB is expected to send a return-to-play proposal to the union soon. The gears for baseball's return are starting to turn -- but significant hurdles remain for it to become a reality. News at ESPN: https://t.co/fHiasxlS1A— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 7, 2020
The legalese used at the start of Passan’s report is important to note here before we get too far ahead of ourselves. The report suggests that MLB is on the verge of officially proposing to the MLBPA that ‘spring’ training resumes in June at the home facilities of each team, with games then happening in subsequent fashion, but there’s been no official agreement to that plan as of yet. Still, it would certainly appear this is the closest we’ve come to an actual plan to get back to baseball, even if there are still many obstacles to overcome.
As Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times noted in his analysis of the report, the money crunch in baseball is beginning to get quite real, and that’s absolutely becoming a factor in these negotiations. Players don’t want to concede salary, yet owners are becoming very aware of the revenue impact having no games is having, and the idea of playing even a shortened season would begin to get the cash flow revved back up once again - even if, as expected, the games are to be played in empty stadiums.
It’s also vital to note that with the current Collective Bargaining Agreement set to expire next year, every move made by both MLB and the MLBPA in this year’s negotiations can be taken as something of a precursor to how they’ll play their hands in next year’s negotiations, too, with both sides reticent to yield too much leverage now in fear of not getting it back for next year’s more long-term planning.
There will still be alterations to this plan, even if it is publicly agreed upon right this very minute. How rosters take shape, how the schedule breaks down, what to do with the DH, how the playoffs would be set up in a three-division alignment, what to do if the virus rears its ugly head again, and endless other vital considerations will make this an ever-fluid process. Still, the wheels are being greased for Baseball 2020, and while it’ll still be the game you’ve grown to love when it finally returns, it’s going to look just about as odd as it ever will when that happens.