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AL Central

Baseball is (almost) back

Major League Baseball will be played in 2020. The league released a statement Wednesday night in response to the Players Union’s rejection of commissioner Rob Manfred’s latest proposal. The resumption of operations is contingent upon the players’ readiness by July 1st. The union will also need to approve of the Operations Manual put forth by MLB. This is critical considering the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The regular season is tentatively scheduled to begin July 24th.

After months of ugly negotiations and bickering, including union chief Tony Clark stating “tell us when and where”, Manfred has decided to use his executive power to begin the 2020 season. This was the only option remaining after Manfred asked Clark to waive his right to file a grievance in the latest proposal. If proven that the league’s owners negotiated in bad faith, such a grievance could result in a billion dollar lawsuit. For now, the two sides have agreed that playing a shortened season is best for them and the fans. Tarnished as their repuations are at the moment, all parties knew that cancelling an entire season for monetary reasons would be the most catastrophic outcome. There are still obstacles to overcome.

In the immediate future, a de facto spring training will be hard to organize given the recent spikes of coronavirus cases in Florida and Arizona. Teams based in Florida have already retreated to the home cities. The schedule likely will be created with geographic proximity as the theme. The unorthodox preparation period will certainly cause teams to worry. The players have confidence in protocols set forth by the league and the continuation of baseball in Korea and Japan provides hope for success.  Decisions will be altered due to potential positive tests and corresponding quarantine periods. Injury decisions will be scrutinized for their impact on this season and next.

Parity should prevail, for a lengthy losing streak would be costly during a sixty game season. The margin of error for each team will be minimal and we could see teams reach the postseason that we would not have expected in a normal year. Strategic decisions will be very interesting to watch.  Every game is going to have postseason ramifications and, will make for good TV.

Major League Baseball has a myriad of problems, but a cancelled season will not be one of them. A potential union grievance will be dealt with in the offseason. Next year’s collective bargaining negotiations could be as standoffish as these were. For now, Baseball fans can rejoice. There is a plan, there is hope, and soon there will be baseball.

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