Nearly two months after Major League Baseball indefinitely suspended the start of the 2020 season due to the coronavirus, we could finally be close to a plan for baseball to return.
According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, MLB will discuss its proposal with owners for the 2020 season during a conference call on Monday. If the league receives approval from owners, it will then present the plan to the MLB Players Association on Tuesday.
No plan has been finalized and it will require approval from owners, the players’ union and medical experts. It also will still be subject to the unpredictability of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it will establish an outline for the 2020 season.
When will the MLB season start?
Under the current proposal, players would report for training at their teams’ facilities in June. From that point, MLB would test every player for the coronavirus and allow them to train and get in baseball shape for the upcoming season.
According to The Athletic, the regular season would begin in early July with July 4 viewed as a potential target date. The season would consist of approximately 80 games, with the league actively discussing a 78- or 82-game season as possibilities.
If MLB moves forward with a 78-game schedule, the league could potentially have four three-games series for teams against each of their divisional opponents. MLB would limit travel, so clubs only face teams from within their geographic area. As an example, NL West teams would play four games against each of their divisional opponents and could play two three-games series against each AL West opponent.
Where will MLB teams play?
While the league initially discussed all teams playing in a central site, the re-opening of multiple states across the country will change that. MLB’s plan would allow for teams to open in as many home parks as guidelines allow. According to The Athletic, the Mets and Yankees could potentially return to New York by July to play in their home stadiums.
Any clubs that are unable to open in their home stadiums would temporarily relocate to their spring-training facilities or move to another MLB park within their region.
Notably, due to regulations from the city, the Boston Red Sox are unlikely to have fans in attendance until at least September. California’s governor also announced similar guidelines for teams in the state until a vaccine is ready. As a result, teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels would likely play in empty stadiums.
MLB Playoffs in a shortened season
Under the league’s proposal, the playoffs would increase from five to seven teams in each league. The team with the best record in the AL and NL would automatically advance to the Division series. The remaining two division winners and top wild-card team would face the bottom three wild-card teams in a best-of-three series.
By expanding the playoffs, potentially with the chance of allowing some fans to attend games by that time of year, MLB could create additional revenue through its television deals with networks.
Impact on MLB’s revenue
As detailed in April, even a shortened season will hurt MLB’s revenue. After generating more than $10 billion in revenue from the 2019 season, the league expects it could lose 40% of its revenue if the season is played without fans in the seats.
Due to the absence of fans, MLB will require players to take a more significant pay cut to account for the loss in revenue. MLB agreed to a deal with the players’ union in March. As part of the agreement, players agreed to pro-rate their salaries based on the number of games played in exchange for a lump sum of $170 million during the league’s shutdown.