The players actually wasted no time returning serve in the current negotiations, sending back a proposal Monday night that, while owners said was nothing new, really did make a step toward some sort of compromise. The players wanted to start the season on July 10 and run through October 11, then have expanded playoffs. While I understand the owners’ reluctance to risk the playoffs, I do wonder if another couple of weeks is really going to be an issue in relation to the second wave coming. Either it’s going to be a problem or it is not. (Now, the issue of television rights and not wanting to conflict with the NFL and other sports is another issue, though honestly right now the later you go the less you are going to conflict with the NBA and NHL, who look to be finishing up their playoffs early in October.
That July 10 date is kind of important, though. It’s also the day the owners have shown as their start date in the latest proposals. Which very well may mean that we are less than a month (as of today) away from actual games. Ironically, the 10th is the Friday before the All-Star Break was supposed to happen, which means we should be getting the second half of the season. That should be enough to play roughly 75 games, so at least from that point of view there’s some room to compromise from the owners’ 50-gamer to the players’ 89-game option.
Given the fact that the commissioner (which is just an offshoot of the owners, of course) can implement a schedule whenever he really wants to, I’d put that July 10 day on your calendar in very, very heavy pencil. (Which means this series should run right about 120 posts!) I don’t think the players would feel comfortable filing a grievance, even if they had a legitimate right to do so, because a grievance wipes out the season. There wouldn’t be time for it to be heard and ruled on and still be able to play the season. Fair or not, the players would be tagged with the “we could have had games if it wasn’t for you” brush. They’ve been getting some of that already but it would be a huge issue if that’s what kept baseball from returning.
So my thinking is we’ll see games starting four weeks from tomorrow. What that will look like, whether the season can actually get done (as you see Texas, the state that had said fans could return to games, seeing a large increase in cases and hospitalizations), and how much people will get paid is still up in the air, but I think we can feel more confident that baseball will return.