Multiple sources are reporting that major league baseball owners have approved a proposal to stage a 78 to 82 game baseball season starting in early July with an expanded playoff format. Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports is among those reporting that the owners will also propose that travel be limited to each team’s geographic region, with a designated hitter in all games and players receiving at least 48 percent of revenues.
Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post have reported various details that have been picked up by many national and local media outlets. Sherman reported that teams would have a game roster of 30 players, with a taxi squad of up to 20 more players ready to be called up.
Games would preferably be played in the home stadiums of each team, probably without fans in attendance at least to start, but if that were not possible, then at spring training facilities.
The proposal follows a report that Major League Baseball conducted a test of employees from 26 of the 30 clubs for the novel coronavirus and found that 60 of the 5,754 persons tested for antibodies, or approximately one percent of the tests were positive. It is the largest sample test of it’s kind undertaken in the United States thus far.
Any plans to play games with or without fans in attendance would need to include serious precautions for ongoing testing and terms for players to opt out if they or their families were facing serious health conditions. A resurgence of the coronavirus could scuttle the plans altogether.
Owners are expected to discuss the proposal on Monday and then present it to the union as soon as Tuesday. Super-agent Scott Boras has already expressed skepticism of the proposal, stating that the owners may be looking to divide the reduced regular season revenue, then keep revenues generated from the expanded playoff for themselves. Players have been holding firm on the position that the two sides already agreed to a formula for payment of prorated salaries in the event that games are played this season. Owners want to reduce salaries further if games have to be played without paid attendance or concessions.
The proposal is expected to include a provision for a universal designated hitter and a 14 team playoff format, with one team in each league getting a first round bye in the playoffs. Teams are expected to play regular season games only against divisional opponents, and teams located in the corresponding division in the other league. In other words, the Tigers would play their division rivals plus at least six games each against St Louis, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, and the Chicago Cubs.
The proposal for a revenue split is particularly interesting. Owners had proposed this decades ago as part of a deal that would have included a salary cap, which is something the players have steadfastly rejected. Whether owners would be willing to open their books, and exactly what is included in baseball related revenues (BRR) remains to be seen. While MLB has enjoyed skyrocketing revenues, salaries have increased at a much slower rate, even declining overall last season.
Any proposal will have to be ratified by the owners, then by the players, and meet with the approval of local government officials. Stay tuned, this is starting to get interesting!