The NBA is looking to return July 31 at Disney World, though they haven’t laid how what that will look like yet, whether they have some games before the playoffs or not. The NHL is going to expand their playoffs and start there when they can resume, a date that hasn’t been decided yet. The NFL still plans to start on September 10, meaning that their training camps and the like will get going within a couple of months.
Instead of baseball marking the time, they are apparently going against the grain.
The players didn’t send over any sort of proposal to the owners yesterday, meaning that the hoped for agreement by June 1 isn’t going to happen. The odds of these two sides sorting out all these issues over a weekend is longer than my avoiding a Star Wars reference. The idea among fans has been that the “Spring Training 2.0” would probably have to be at least two weeks, and that’s not counting a week to probably get everything and everyone in place. You might need to give players around a week of lead time to get everything together, get to where they need to go, etc. but perhaps that folds into that first week. So at very best, you need three weeks before starting a season. Probably more, but we’ll say three.
That means that you need to have an agreement between owners and players by June 12 at the very latest to have a kickoff on Fourth of July weekend. That’s two weeks from today. Two weeks seems possible, but 1) that’s the VERY latest and probably would need to be more like June 8 or so and 2) the players and owners feel like they’ve gotten further apart over the last two weeks. Negotiations can come together very quickly, but asking for that in this situation seems like asking for a miracle. The attempted wedge between the haves and the have nots in the union didn’t fly and seems to have unified things more than disrupted them.
Now, let’s be fair. All those plans that the other leagues have? They are just plans and honestly the NBA and NHL aren’t any closer to returning than baseball is, it doesn’t seem like. They haven’t gotten a plan together for health and safety, at least not that we’ve heard of. The NHL doesn’t have a date or a location. The NBA doesn’t know yet what kind of games they’ll be playing on July 31 even if they can play then.
However, basketball and hockey do have one advantage–they were at the end of their season when this shut down, so the players have already been paid. If they go into a playoff scenario, players aren’t paid during that time anyway. So they don’t have to worry about revenues and not honoring contracts and all the mess that is keeping MLB on the sidelines. With a salary cap in place for them and for football, that might reduce those concerns anyway, though I imagine there will be some labor tension going forward as revenues decline. That said, given how far along their season went (and if they are able to open 2020-21 with fans, which is a big if), their financial hit might not be as notable as baseball’s.
If those sports do return, though, the window for baseball to have the stage all to itself is a small one. (Though, to be fair, it’ll put them in their normal position, as they only are the only game in town in July usually anyway, as the basketball and hockey playoffs run through most of June and the NFL’s camps start in late July.) The idea of a pristine sporting landscape has already slipped by as NASCAR has returned and golf is doing the same, I believe. While that’s not necessarily going to cut into things too much, not like the other big sports, it’s something.
It almost doesn’t matter now, though, because people have already gotten a bad taste in their mouths about how baseball is handling things. When your core fans are talking about how they love the sport, not the game, or complaining about how things are going, you aren’t likely to be able to pick up non-fans or casual fans just because you are the only game in town, so to speak. They’ve tarnished the product enough that you wonder if being the only live competition would save it. There would be a bump early on, but after a week or two, would that interest still be there? I mean, I hear a lot less about the KBO now that we’ve had a few weeks of it.
We keep saying that both sides have too much to lose, that both sides want to play. Do they? Or are they more concerned about lining up for the next CBA issue? I’m sure they want to play, but I’m not sold that it’s their overriding motivation. Perhaps they’ll prove me wrong this week and we’ll be able to talk about logistics and other hurdles to a return rather than another fight over a pot of money.