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Baseball on hold means plenty of unanswered questions; MLB opener pushed back again

I’ve talked to a few friends in baseball media in recent days and I think we’d all have to admit to the uncertainty for what comes next. There isn’t a textbook for how to respond in pro sports to the concerns brought forth by a global pandemic.

With the knowledge that there are more serious discussions to be had in the world right now, let this serve as a clearinghouse for one thing we’re looking forward to. What happens in Major League Baseball now that all plans are on hold?

Major League Baseball on Monday announced what we’d all expected: That rumored early-April start date is not going to happen. Following recent recommendations from the Center for Disease Control & Prevention, the league announced that the start of the season will be pushed back at least enough to go along with the CDC’s suggestion that gatherings of more than 50 people be avoided for the next 8 weeks.

“The clubs remain committed to playing as many games as possible once the season begins,” MLB wrote in a news release. “We will continue to monitor ongoing events and undertake the precautions and best practices recommended by public health experts, and urge all baseball fans to follow suit.”

Eight weeks from the time those guidelines were update would take us into the second week of May.

What’s a new reasonable start date? Late-May? June 1? July 1? Are we in any danger of missing a season?

Not yet, according to Twins President Dave St. Peter. He joined SKOR North on Mackey & Judd with Ramie to discuss the latest developments, and said that from everything he’s heard, he remains optimistic that there will be a 2020 MLB season.

What happens to the schedule?  Is 162 games even possible? Would the league pro-rate the schedule for the remaining calendar left? Or would the calendar change in a meaningful way?

And if you do have to cut down from 162, how would you do that? Cut down each series by a game? Scrap entire series? How would you deal with the resultant schedule imbalance?  Would MLB look to cut down in-division games from 19 to something slightly less imposing? Could series be tacked together between frequent opponents to lighten the travel burden that could cause big headaches this summer/fall?

Conceding that “it’s going to be a really big challenge” to play 162 games this year, St. Peter said that the incentives are their for the owners (revenue) and players (salary) to play as many games as they can. “Baseball will look at a variety of ways to play as many games as possible,” he said, which could include many doubleheaders, postseason games at neutral sites, possibly even a neutral-site World Series.

Speaking of which, what will become of the World Series in the event of a truncated regular season? Still 7 games? Will it be in November?

You’d imagine that there will be a modified spring training at some point when we all return to whatever is the new version of normal. What are the logistics of that? Two teams in the same city and then just open the season there against each other?

How about the All-Star Game?

The Trade Deadline? Hard to imagine that will still be July 31.

How will MLB players get paid? Are they earning paychecks or are those on hold until we know how much work they’re going to miss? (Which agents wrote in contract provisions to stipulate what happens in the case of spreading infectious diseases?) What about performance bonuses for things like 150 innings? Good luck hitting that mark in 3 months of baseball games.

And what about support staffers? How about minor leaguers? Are they going to be paid during the hiatus? I have to confess that I don’t know the sick-time policy in the Pro Baseball Agreement.

Speaking of the inner workings of baseball, how will service time be accrued? If you’re on the big-league roster for the month of April but there are no games, that doesn’t count as a month of MLB service, does it? Or let’s just say they play 3 months this year; would every day of MLB service count as 2 on that compressed time scale?

And what in the world will become of the June draft?

There are many, many questions that I have right now about MLB, stretching far beyond the most pressing one, ‘When will we be back in action? ‘I’ll leave you with one near the top of the list.

When eventually we get back, are we all in agreement that we’re still going to be mad at the Astros?


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