Decisions are looming for MLB and the MLBPA regarding a potential 2020 season. The distribution of revenue, salary amounts for players, and the length of the season have been the most publicly controversial topics, but there is a myriad of other negotiating points that could change the game in 2020.
For starters, the league and players are reportedly agreed on changing the format of extra-inning games for the 2020 season. They would adopt the minor league rules that received a trial starting in 2018, per USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. In extras, each team would start with a runner on second base (the batter who made the last out in the previous inning). This should press the action and help avoid ties taking games deep into the night. That runner would count as an unearned run for the pitcher, going down in the scorebooks as if the batter reached on an error. Regardless of whether or not they decide to allow for ties, rules will revert to traditional extra-inning rules for the start of the postseason.
Even bigger than revenue sharing or rule changes, however, are the health conditions facing players. Yesterday represented a step back as news broke of players at multiple MLB facilities with confirmed COVID-19 exposure (stories from Angels, Phillies, Blue Jays, Astros, and Giants).
This underscores a concern for players, who are seeking additional protections for players. It’s been agreed upon that high-risk players can elect to skip the 2020 season with full pay and service time, but the players’ union are looking to get those protections extended to players with high-risk family members as well, tweets MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. Any player can choose to opt-out of the season, but as of right now, unless a player qualifies as high risk, they would forfeit their right to accrue service time or collect a paycheck.
For now, all thirty teams have shut down their training facilities for cleaning, per Bill Shaikin of the LA Times. Given the cases of coronavirus that were revealed yesterday (including 11 NHL players), it’s certainly the prudent call to shut down the facilities to reboot (and disinfect). Clearly, the negotiations between the league and players become moot if they can’t establish a clean and safe environment.
The sport has taken a lot of heat for the contentious nature of the debate between owners and players, but if owners can’t guarantee the safety of players, and if players can’t do their part to stay as safe as possible, a lot of time and money will have been wasted trying to get the game back on track.