MLB: June 10th start not without challenges, here are the details

The New York Yankees and baseball fans are eagerly awaiting the start of the baseball season.  MLB has floated several plans to get the season started.  Jeff Passan of ESPN and Ken Rosenthal of the MLB Network reported yesterday on leaks from sources close to the MLB negotiations.  Those reports suggest that MLB is looking to a June 10 start for a three to four-week resumption of spring training and a beginning to the regular season targeting July 1st.

These plans are not without challenges to be met and resolved.  COVID-19 is controlling all the negotiations. Even with the unknown, negotiations are heating up with final plans due as early as next week.  Finalizing plans are complicated by the number of entities involved.  To issue the final plan, MLB, owners, players, the White House, and health officials all have to come together and agree to what baseball will be going forward.

Other issues to be solved include how much players will be paid, will there be a geographic re-alignment, where games will be held, what to do if a player tests positive, and the biggest issue is when to actually start play.  The players association has already agreed to have their pay reduced by the number of games not played. Owners want to go further now and ask players for an additional reduction because of the loss of revenue caused by no fans in the stands.

The next decision is if games will be played as in past seasons with an American League and National League and the traditional six divisions.  Presently with all the plans out there, MLB seems to be headed toward dumping the Leagues and re-aligning all of baseball into three leagues or divisions based on geography.   An Eastern, Central, and West Division that pits all teams regardless of what league they are in, playing against each other.

Another consideration is the evolution of the virus and what to do if the present decline starts to re-emerge.  With areas of the country starting to re-open and some businesses reopening, no one knows if new cases will increase.  This could cause several problems, including if games could be played at certain stadiums and what to do if players contract the virus.  This is an area that health officials will have to address in an opening plan.

The aforementioned may be why MLB is rushing to issue a final plan while the virus is trending downward.  According to when baseball starts, MLB wants to get in between 80 and 100 games with an expanded postseason that could take baseball into late November, some say the last game of a World Series could take place on November 29.  This plan creates another problem to be ironed out.  Stadiums like Yankee Stadium and Target Field in Minnesota could conceivably have a foot of snow on the field that late in November.  This might bring neutral stadium locations into play.

Whatever plan is adopted, MLB wants to get baseball going sooner than later.  The economic impact of the delayed season has been huge, for owners, players, and the economy around the MLB stadiums.  Businesses that depend upon fans spending money have been severely hurt.  Sports bars, restaurants, hotels, and other businesses want to see fans in the stands.  What will be paramount is that MLB puts forth a plan that creates a situation that is as safe as possible for players and fans alike.

For the New York Yankees, the state of Florida has already opened large sports venues including, George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida.  There will be restrictions.  Social distancing must be observed, and stadiums may not exceed 50 % of capacity.  Several Yankee players are already on location at the complex.  Most teams have alerted players to get ready for the June 10 start, while others have told players to start to ramp up their training.

The last thing MLB wants to do is start the season too early and have players test positive for the virus.  If this happens, it could cause teams to shut down, which would eventually cause the season to come to a halt and have to be canceled altogether.  Another concern lurking in the back of minds in MLB, as well as the rest of sports, is what happens if this virus rears it’s ugly head again next year.