On Monday, the MLB Players Association (MLBPA) voted to reject Major League Baseball's proposal for a 2020 season. In response, the league announced that commissioner Rob Manfred will impose a season. That season is set to be 60 games but won't have an expanded postseason or some of other notable features of the league's final proposal. (Do note that said proposal would not have offered the players any additional salary guarantees in the event that the season must be canceled due to the spread of COVID-19.)
A natural response to Monday's news is to ask: What's next? It's not as simple as Manfred's word becoming law, after all.
As such, let's walk through three points worth knowing about the next few days.
1. Union must respond by Tuesday night
Part of the league's statement included two questions directed at the MLBPA pertaining to the union's ability to report to camp within a week and players' willingness to sign off on a health and safety protocol. The league has requested the union provide answers to those questions before 5 p.m. ET on Tuesday evening.
Here's that part of the statement in its entirety:
"In order to produce a schedule with a specific number of games, we are asking that the Players Association provide to us by 5:00 p.m. (ET) tomorrow with two pieces of information. The first is whether players will be able to report to camp within seven days (by July 1st). The second is whether the Players Association will agree on the Operating Manual which contains the health and safety protocols necessary to give us the best opportunity to conduct and complete our regular season and Postseason."
Speaking of the safety protocols ...
2. One agreement is still required
You would think that safety would come first during a pandemic. That hasn't been the case throughout these negotiations.
Rather, the trail went cold after MLB sent a 67-page proposal to the union earlier in the pandemic. The two sides were said to be closer in that regard than they were on financial considerations, which seems like a positive sign. It's possible that things have become more complicated in recent weeks, what with 40 MLB players and staff members reportedly testing positive for the novel coronavirus in recent days.
MLB has also reportedly ordered all spring training sites to be closed and sanitized, and personnel must test negative for COVID-19 before being allowed to return.
3. When and where (pandemic permitting)?
We'll end by reinforcing that, yes, the pandemic is ongoing, and could wreak havoc on an attempt at a season.
Earlier in the year, CBS Sports reported on the league's consideration for running three bubble sites: in Arizona, Texas, and Florida. Those states are now among the hardest hit by the coronavirus, which is notable for multiple reasons:
- Five teams play in those states, complicating the scenario where teams play in their home markets all year.
- It means MLB wouldn't be able to switch to that bubble plan even if it wanted to.
If a season is started -- and it seems like there will be an attempt -- it's to be determined how the league will respond when a player (or, more likely, players) tests positive for COVID-19. At that point, it won't be as simple as shutting down facilities.