Well, yesterday saw a whole lot of baseball news come from every single direction starting in the early afternoon. At first it was that the Philadelphia Phillies has multiple players and coaches test positive for COVID-19, and that it had extended beyond those numbers as it also reached some family members of those players and coaches. Then we started getting more information about other teams having players that have tested positive around Major League Baseball. And almost like someone flipped a switch, the entire sports world started seeing similar reports, topped off with the Clemson football team having 23 players having tested positive at this point. The NHL saw their training camps shut down in several cities after they had positive tests with a few teams.
As the day went along, more information started coming out from Major League Baseball on several different fronts. Getting away from the pandemic for a second, the owners have decided that they are not going to be responding to the players proposal for 70 games and sharing of playoff revenues.
MLB has told Players Association it will not make a counter-offer to union’s 70-game proposal, sources tell me and @EvanDrellich. League talking with owners this weekend to discuss its next options moving forward. Last MLB offer: 60 games. Could try to implement in 50-odd range.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) June 19, 2020
That led to the MLBPA to release this statement:
MLB has informed the Association that it will not repond to our last proposal and will not play more than 60 games. Our Executive Board will convene in the near future to determine next steps. Importantly, Players remain committed to getting back to work as soon as possible.
There’s a lot going on here. This past week the players said “when and where”, challenging the owners to set the schedule to a number of games that fell into the “attempt to play the most games possible” section of the March agreement that would keep the terms of the contract valid and not leave an opening for the players to file a grievance. Instead the owners offered 60 games in a proposal rather than implementing the season – trying to buy time so that they could ultimately just “run out the clock” to implement the number of games that they want.
By not responding to the players proposal is just another step in delaying things to get to a date in which they can try to avoid a grievance that could cost them, by some estimates, a billion dollars, instead of just play 70 games which would cost them about $300 million beyond their 60-game proposal. How fun. The business of baseball is ridiculously stupid.
But let’s get back to something even less fun than the business of baseball. The pandemic. Things are going in the wrong direction in many states. And while there are some conspiracy theorists out there in the baseball world who believe the owners are trying to just use this as a way to cancel the season, this particular writer doesn’t buy that. This particular writer has also been wrong before.
TJ Quinn of ESPN is reporting this morning that COVID-19 concerns are a real threat to the season. Which, of course it is, that’s the reason baseball hasn’t been happening for the last three months and a week.
A senior MLB official tells me the virus is a “much bigger threat” to the season than the labor battle. They’re carrying on with the plan to have teams in their home ballparks, but recognize it could all fall apart quickly.
— T.J. Quinn (@TJQuinnESPN) June 20, 2020
But, Quinn isn’t exactly off-base, either. Yesterday saw rumors that baseball was at least considering a plan that would include sending everyone to California to try and play instead of having everyone at their own ballparks and traveling across the country (or at least their portion of the country). This was first reported in The Wall Street Journal by Jared Diamond and Ben Cohen. The players quickly went against that plan in April when it was spoken of in Arizona (and then an Arizona/Florida/Texas hybrid).
Late last night Major League Baseball decided to shut down the team facilities in both Arizona and Florida according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
Major League Baseball will close all spring training sites in Arizona and Florida for deep cleaning and will not permit players or staff members until they pass a COVID-19 test.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) June 20, 2020
This only applied to the spring training sites, not the big league facilities in those states where some teams have players working out at.
There’s a whole lot going on. And there’s a whole lot of stuff to still be figured out as to whether we’re going to have Major League Baseball this summer or not. Money. Sickness. Risk. Reward. All of it. Us? Well, we’re just in a waiting pattern still, trying to see how it’s all going to play out.