Jon Heyman of MLB Network set off a bit of a tweet storm earlier this afternoon with some updates on where things are at with what Major League Baseball is talking about with their current plans of getting the game resumed.

Let’s dive into the first tweet here. Early July remains a best case scenario for a start time. That’s still seven weeks away, and a lot of things can change between now and then. But Heyman lays out that testing capabilities are a big thing that needs to be there for baseball to return. What is also interesting here is that it seems the regular divisions, instead of the larger 10-team geographic divisions, are the thought they’d like to have.

A spring training in Cincinnati? That sounds like it could be what happens. This isn’t the first we’ve heard of this kind of plan, though it did seem to fade away a bit over the last month or so as other plans have been floated out there that didn’t involve games being played in home cities.

It’s also worth noting the whole “where possible” part of the report. Some cities and states aren’t at the point right now where it seems like there could be large scale team workouts, or even games. Making an exception for sports teams probably wouldn’t go over so well with the public, either. But as we noted above – things can certainly change between today and when teams could try to enact this plan.

This was the final of the three tweets sent out by Heyman. The schedule is certainly going to be interesting if there’s going to be no cross country flights. Does that eliminate teams in the west divisions from playing anyone else? Or does Los Angeles or Seattle to Cincinnati or Pittsburgh not count as cross country? Will the central and east divisions play each other in non-divisional games?

The expanded rosters part isn’t new. We heard about that from the very beginning. The “taxi squad” thing has been speculated upon a lot as it just makes sense. Guys are going to get hurt throughout the season, and while no one is officially saying it, the feeling is pretty much that there’s not going to be any minor league baseball this season – so you need to have players to step in and take over on the big league roster when that happens. How many players make up that roster, and how many extra players are on the “active” roster isn’t yet known and is likely going to be something that the two sides (MLB and the MLBPA) are going to have to go back and forth on a little bit.

As things sit right now, Major League Baseball still hasn’t given a plan to the Players Association to actually look and and discuss, perhaps counter, and vote on. But that’s reportedly coming within the next week. Right now we’re still just getting rumors about what may be in there. Things are going to be different in 2020 if and when we get baseball. How different? We’re all going to have to just wait and see.

18 Responses

  1. Tom Mitsoff

    Even though the idea of the three 10-team regional divisions seems not to be the favorite idea at the moment, they may use interleague play between for example the NL Central and AL Central as a way to create a schedule that is more than just games against only your own divisional opponents. Creating as many travel opportunities as possible that can be done by bus rather than flying would seem to be a way for the teams to save some money.

    Not sure why there is concern about cross country flights, other than financial considerations. It is not immediately evident why cross-country team charter flights pose any more virus transmission risk than a team charter flight between Cincinnati and Milwaukee, for example.

    • Jim Walker

      Cross country flights>
      Players not segregated from general population could move the virus across the country more quickly on longer distance flights?

      I also suspect with states forming geographical based regional alliances/ consortiums, there might at some point exist the greater possibility of quarantine issues moving teams from one region to another into or out of a region with different quarantine schemes.

      Players not yet identified as positive but shedding virus have more time to cross infect teammates in confined environment on longer flights?

  2. Old-school

    What are teams going to do WHEN..not if player A or coach B tests positive? Covid 19 has become ebolavirus to too many people. It’s not. It’s a cold to Michael lorenzen. It’s serious to Dusty Baker or Carlos Carrosco or some umpires and pitching coaches. Until MLB or any sport understands it’s everywhere with risk, but different risks individually… It’s chaos.

    Maybe Dusty Baker should manage from a booth like the NFL has coordinators from afar. Maybe starting pitchers pitch one day…. Then separate for 5 more with a designated bullpen catcher and video analysis from Derek Johnson. Perhaps the pregame catered chefs for both teams go away and the postgame spread goes away and players eat on their own.

    • Tom Mitsoff

      Almost certainly, anyone who tests positive will be quarantined away from the team in some way. Could have some interesting twists to pennant races as well if key players test positive during the “stretch run” or even the post-season.

  3. vegastypo

    FWIW, a report from Southern California talks about Clayton Kershaw sounding enthused about the plan. Dodgers CEO Stan Kasten tempered any optimism greatly.

    One thing here that also caught my eye was that while the Cleveland Indians reportedly told their players to expect training camp in June and the season in July, the Dodgers weren’t telling that to their players, according to Kasten.

    Here is a link.

  4. Jim Walker

    The NBA commissioner is said to have conducted a virtual briefing open to all players sometime in the last several days. One of the things “sources” have leaked is that he told players 40% of league revenue was based on fans being at games (guessing that’s gate, concessions, parking, team paraphernalia etc.).

    I have no idea how this stacks up for MLB; but, it seems a fair guess that economics are turning out to be a big factor in what they end up doing and how they do it, especially if there are teams tied to a high level of fixed costs (debt service for instance) independent of how many, if any games get played.

    • Doug Gray

      It’s been reported in the last two days that in baseball it’s 40-50%, though that varies by team. I don’t know that I buy those numbers, though.

      • Doug Gray

        The problem with that number is that it completely ignores “non-baseball revenue” that was generated simply because the baseball team exists. It’s been happening for a decade now, and it’s an easy way to “hide” baseball revenue. When teams get these stadiums built for them by the public, they also tend to get sweet real estate around the ballpark that “isn’t” baseball related that they make large profits on (see the Atlanta Braves books on this one). And 18 of the 30 teams also now own part of their regional sports networks as a part of the tv contracts they’ve signed. But only the money paid for the TV contract counts as “baseball revenue”. The profit/dividend paid to the team as part owner isn’t counted as “baseball revenue” even though the only reason they have that ownership stake was so the network didn’t have to pay as much up front for the TV contract. Estimates on how much that is each year vary per team, but it’s believed to be at least several million dollars per year for the lower market teams (how much ownership stake also matters here).

        So let’s take that 40% number from Forbes and drop it off a little bit.

      • BK

        Good points Doug. Forbes doesn’t include profit (or losses) from tangentially related businesses such as regional sports networks or businesses owned by the teams that derive a large portion of their business to gameday traffic. That would make the total revenue somewhat higher than Forbes provided and could change the percentage somewhat.

        You mentioned the Braves set up, the one I am most familiar with is the set of bars and restaurants that sit just outside of Busch Stadium and thrive on gameday in St. Louis. A few years ago, when I lived near St. Louis, I read that small block brings in about $20M annually to the Cardinal’s organization. Revenues from these sources will follow closely with baseball attendance.

        I think Jim’s point is valid that economics will drive how future plans. MLB and MLBPA have an agreement in place for which both sides appear comfortable if:

        1. No games are played in 2020
        2. Games are played in front of fans in 2020

        MLB certainly doesn’t appear to believe the current agreement covers playing in empty (or reduced capacity) stadiums. Regardless of the percentage, $4B+ seems like a pretty big number if it wasn’t considered by both sides in the prior negotiation.

      • Doug Gray

        There’s a whole lot of money here, no doubt. The whole agreement with regards to player salary from late March that is a big sticking point right now is crazy to me. How can both sides believe they are correct in that one? It’s a contract. Either it spells out that it’s built upon having fans or it’s not. And if that isn’t in there, then it looks like the owners screwed up and they’re just going to have to bite the bullet – much like the players have had to when they’ve screwed up in the CBA negotiations the last two times. They don’t get to renegotiate after the fact when they realized what they agreed to didn’t work out the way that they hoped it would. #DougIsTotallyNotALawyerSoDontTakeThisAsLegalAdvice

  5. Michael Smith

    Doug and company. thank you for the continuous updates. Nice to have something to read other than someecards and there 9 billion memes list.

  6. Old-school

    Ken Rosenthal says a blue print is in place for a 78-82 game schedule that would be limited by division and region.

    NL central teams would play only against NL central(~ 48 games) and AL central(~ 24 games). Home and home.

    Expanded wildcards with 7 teams from each league and very large rosters.

    Presented to owners Monday and if approved….. to the union Tuesday with Opening Day in early July.

    Much still to be worked through including revenues with no fans, Spring training locations and policies with health officials, contingencies.

    No mention of universal DH from Rosenthal but at the least- 15% of games would be DH for NL teams for road games in AL parks or 30% if all inter-league games used DH regardless of venue. Can’t imagine AL teams agreeing to 15% of their games using a pitcher to hit.

    • Jim Walker

      I got a feeling if they get this going, universal DH will be one of those devils in the details. And I will be surprised if it ever goes away. That’s more than fine with me.

      I also like the idea of a larger pool of players from which to choose a smaller active group for any individual game. No doubt there would be some sticky points to work out there with how to handle the pitching, mostly relating to starters and total allowed active for a game. Then of course there would be the business end of service time allocation and the like. Still, if it can be done for an emergency, it can be worked out long term.

      Turn misfortune into opportunity for growth.

      • Tom Mitsoff

        One benefit of a larger roster may be not having to make final decisions on players who are out of options, such as Cody Reed, Lucas Sims and Scott Schebler. Also, presumably it will allow the Reds to retain Rule 5 draftee Mark Payton for the full year.

      • Old-school

        Bad math on my part. 5 AL central teams with (2) 3 game series each would be 30 games against AL central and even higher proportion inter-league games.

        Universal DH would have to be in play for all inter-league games. If the DH is coming to the NL, this would be the time to roll it out. Just very odd to be watching Reds/ Cards in 2 months with a DH.

      • Tom Mitsoff

        Here’s one scheduling scenario:

        15 games against each of the four opponents in your own division = 60 games

        four games against each of the five teams in the other Central division = 20 games

        Total of 80