ESPN reported Wednesday that Major League Baseball is expecting to present a return-to-play plan to the MLB Players Association within the next week.
The proposed plan would begin a second spring training sometime in June, with the regular season beginning in early July.
MLB Pushing for Use of Home Stadiums
That timeframe is similar to one reported by former MLB player Trevor Plouffe, though the plan is far from final approval and faces many obstacles before implementation.
According to ESPN, sources say that momentum is also building toward holding games in the home stadiums of each team. While this presents more danger than a single-location solution – such as the Arizona plan – it is logistically simpler, and would allow players to remain close to their families for at least half of the season.
Whether or not any of this is realistic is another question entirely. A July 1 start date would mean Opening Day would be less than eight weeks from now, a timeline that is difficult to envision when many parts of the United States are still seeing an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases.
There also remains the possibility of further COVID-19 outbreaks, particularly in the fall when Major League Baseball would be gearing up for its postseason. That means any plan put in place will require flexibility, with teams being willing to move to different locations if necessary.
“If everyone is expecting baseball to look like and feel like, and be the way it’s been over the past 10 years, it’s going to be really hard to get through the season,” an unnamed executive told The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. “If teams and players are willing to be flexible and adaptive, that gives us the best chance to get through. We have to be prepared for postponed and canceled games, and not have the expectation we’re going to get every single game in.”
Players may have health concerns over accepting any proposal to return to play. However, financial disputes could be just as large a sticking point.
Adaptability Key for Successful Season
The MLBPA has already agreed to prorate player salaries based on the number of games played this season. But owners say that playing without fans will eliminate much of their revenue, necessitating further salary cuts.
Any season that starts in July could include somewhere between 80 to 100 games before the playoffs. However, any agreement will likely be riddled with contingency plans, as there are simply too many unknowns for either side to feel confident that nothing will have to change going forward.
“The reality is, we don’t know what’s going to happen over the next five months,” that same executive told Rosenthal. “I would guess there are things that aren’t going to go the way we planned. Our ability to adapt is going to be really important.”