The Major League Baseball season looks poised to begin around July 24, as owners have voted unanimously to implement a 60-game season under the March agreement between the league and the MLB Players Association.
The league needs the MLBPA to sign off on health and safety protocols, and agree to arrive at home stadiums for preseason activities by July 1. Players are expected to approve both of those conditions.
Lack of Agreement Kills Expanded Postseason
The lack of a negotiated agreement between the two sides does come with consequences. There won’t be an expanded postseason and its unclear whether a universal DH rule will be used. By rejecting a previous 60-game proposal, players retained their right to file a grievance, but lost out on some financial perks, such as added postseason money and forgiveness on advances received during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Today, the Major League Baseball Players Association informed us that they have rejected the agreement framework developed by Commissioner Manfred and Tony Clark. Needless to say, we are disappointed by this development,” MLB said in a statement released Monday. “In view of this rejection, the MLB Clubs have unanimously voted to proceed with the 2020 season under the terms of the March 26th Agreement.”
The league asked the MLBPA to respond to its two requests – the July 1 report date and signing off on the new health and safety protocols – by 5 pm ET on Tuesday. While it’s unclear if the union will meet that deadline, it has already indicated that the protocols will be finalized “in the coming days.”
While the season restart currently remains unofficial, scenarios in which MLB doesn’t play are now extraordinarily unlikely. Barring a strike, the league will implement a schedule. Even if players file a grievance against the league, that process will play out in arbitration or the legal system, and won’t impact the 2020 season.
Coronavirus Remains a Threat
Even without a new agreement, fans might see some changes on the field. Most significantly, the league and the MLBPA have already agreed to change how extra innings work this season. Starting in the 10th inning, each team will begin with a runner on second base, reducing the possibility of extremely long games. This rule will only exist in the regular season, and only for 2020. At least for now.
COVID-19 remains the biggest threat to a successful MLB season. With case numbers rapidly increasing in some parts of the country, there’s a looming concern that some teams may have trouble playing in their home cities. Recent cases at team facilities in Florida led MLB to temporarily shut down all spring training venues. The Toronto Blue Jays may also encounter issues with international travel, as a border shutdown between the United States and Canada is in effect until at least July 21.
In the meantime, sportsbooks are assuming that the season will reach a conclusion and that MLB will crown a World Series champion in 2020. FanDuel Sportsbook sees the Los Angeles Dodgers (+380) and New York Yankees (+400) as the virtual co-favorites to win the title, ahead of the Astros (+800), Braves (+1400), and Twins (+1600).