baseball
Photo Credit: MLB

Baseball is Back

www.franchisesportsmedia.com

 

Well, it’s finally happening. Pigs might finally fly. Hell has finally frozen over. Insert whatever phrase you like because baseball is coming back! After what felt like forever in a battle of negotiations between the MLB and MLBPA, we finally have progress. 

 

baseball
Photo Credit: News Break

After weeks of proposals sent and rejected followed by a similar plan with different numbers, baseball had the most depressing summer of all time for everyone involved, especially the fans. The MLBPA stood their ground and fought to keep their original prorated agreement despite MLB owners trying to convince them to take pay cut after pay cut, and it got worse as weeks went on.

ESPN broke down each of the season’s proposals starting back in May, with the very first proposal having MLB wanting players to share 50% of revenue. That was rejected by the MLBPA. Then came an offer of a 76-game season where players get 75% of their promised prorated salaries, which was also ultimately dismissed by the MLBPA.

Then came the third offer on June 12, 2020 which knocked the game down to a 72-game season that would begin in mid-July, maxing out at 80% full prorated salaries. When you start to break the numbers down, everyone was standing extremely firm on their set plans. Each was trying to trick the other with calculations, but it was the MLB using these tactics to try and gain an advantage. However, there was no counter-offer from the MLBA this time.

The players remained adamant that they would not risk health and safety for the lack of pay to go into the greedy pockets of rich business people. Rob Manfred came out last week and stated confidently: “Unequivocally, we are going to play Major League Baseball this year.” When asked what the percentages were, he said, “100%”. Even if he had to enforce a shortened season, per an agreement set in March, he would do just that. 

 

baseball
Photo Credit: USA Today

This week Manfred spoke to Espn’s Mike Greenberg on playing baseball in 2020, saying, “I can’t tell you that I’m a 100% certain that’s going to happen.” With a massive groan from the baseball world and the people in the back, it became evident that MLB had trapped themselves into a corner.  The MLBPA called MLB’s and Rob Manfred’s bluff and said baseball will be played–“Tell us when and where”–knowing very well that a grievance would be filed and MLB would be tied up in more costly legal issues.

 

Now for a plethora of news that might make you want to jump up and sing “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond…  

The first sign of progress on the road to baseball was reported originally by Jon Heyman, with continuous reporting by Jeff Passan, and Ken Rosenthal. News broke that Rob Manfred had flown to Arizona to meet with union chief, Tony Clark, per Manfred’s request. As part of the pending agreement between the MLB and MLBPA to play the 2020 season, Jon Heyman also reported details of the deal presented to the union. The deal includes 100% full prorated pay, waiver any grievances, $25 million player playoff pool, and expanded playoffs for two years.

This is the first ray of light to shine through this fog–a sign of hope that would be lost again shortly after.

 

In a statement released June 17, 2020, Rob Manfred spoke of the meeting with Tony Clark:

 

Commissioner’s statement

“Commissioner of Baseball Robert D. Manfred, Jr. issued the following statement today:

“At my request, Tony Clark and I met for several hours yesterday in Phoenix. We left that meeting with a jointly developed framework that we agreed could form the basis of an agreement and subject to conversations with our respective constituents. I summarized that framework numerous times in the meeting and sent Tony a written summary today. Consistent with our conversations yesterday, I am encouraging the Clubs to move forward, and I trust Tony is doing the same.”

MLB’s newest proposal also asked for a 60+-game season that ends around Sept 27, giving players fully prorated salaries. It would expand the playoffs in 2020 and 2021, and waive any potential grievance. Jayson Stark of The Athletic has broken it down to show how 66 games would work:

 

  • 12 games each vs 4 division opponents
  • *3 games each vs four interleague opponents
  • *6 games (Home and Home) vs interleague rival

 

baseball
Photo Credit: Atin Ito

Also featured in the proposal is “Universal DH” (Designated Hitter). First reported by Bob Nightengale of USA Today back in May, the often-debated “Universal DH” will be implemented this season for 2020 whenever it resumes. It will then revert to normal again for the 2021 season until finally becoming official in 2022 by a collective bargaining agreement.  While the AL (American League) already uses a DH, this move could even the playing field for the NL (National League) in the hitting department.

 

It does change the game substantially for NL fans, however. Most fans have clamored for the addition, but traditionalists say it alters the impact of how a manager can react to certain situations. It’s similar to the changes made with relievers last season, where a reliever being summoned from the bullpen has a 3-batter minimum. That completely retooled how the Left-handed pitchers were utilized going forward, and no doubt, the “Universal DH” amendments will affect how the game will be played as well. 

Then, the MLBPA rejected the offer. That’s when fans just flat out gave up hope of seeing baseball this year. It seemed like the organizations were the ones holding up the progress, and the support was pretty one-sided in the player’s favor. At this point, the MLBPA undid that in the matter of a day. The “Tell us when and where,” statement now seemed like a joke.

Up and down like a roller coaster with negotiations at a stalemate, Rob Manfred came to the plate, bases loaded, 2-outs, and a 3-2 count.  Reported by Jon Heyman and Bob Nightengale, Rob Manfred will indeed enforce baseball to return for a 60-game season with 10 teams to expand in the playoffs which was first agreed upon back in March. The MLB will set a schedule, but they only asked the MLBPA for two things:

  1. Can players report to spring training in 7 days?
  2. WIll players agree on the Operating Manual that presents the guidelines of health and safety protocols for the 2020 season?

Spring Training is expected to start July 1st, with the season starting around July 24-27th. Players have already agreed to sign off on it. Obviously, with the rejected early proposal, some players are expected to file grievances, and that shall add some more fireworks and intrigue to this ongoing situation. The only thing that still opposes baseball and sports, in general, is the pending and biggest concern of all, Covid-19.  As long as things progress this way, baseball fans can finally breathe a sigh of relief.

 

The return to play could be the happiest news in a long time.

 

baseball
Photo Credit: CBS Sports 

We have it, and we can finally celebrate in a way. We can’t participate in high-fives, though. Also, no hugging and no butt slaps because we still have to honor the social distancing guidelines.  What we can do is get excited to see our favorite teams on television once again. It has sure been a long time coming. Everyone was starting to expect no season this year, but the fallout from that would have been cataclysmic.

 The return of the game of baseball is much needed, especially in today’s climate. The daily game of baseball, and sports in general, brings people together. Those water-cooler moments at work? We need that joy again. Unfortunately, it is uncertain when we will be able to fill those ballparks, but at least we can have our baseball back. I can hear the crack of the bats now. Time to grill up some hotdogs and get some sunscreen because I burn easily. Really, there is no better way to end this longest 7th-inning stretch in history without saying these words:

 

Take me out to the ballgame,

Take me out to the crowd.

Buy me some peanuts and some crackerjack,

I don’t care if I never get back.

Let me root, root, root, for the home team,

if they don’t’ win it’s a shame.

For it’s one, two, three strikes,

You’re out,

At the old ball game.”

 Let’s play ball!

 

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-Joshua Rushford – Franchise Sports Media

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