“Great Unknown–How To Deal With This”
This should have been an exciting time, the opening of the baseball season, and now it is the great unknown.
Players have been scattered to all parts of the country, and to parts of the globe this morning, all in the grip of the Virus-Crisis–Covid 19.
Questions abound and remain unanswered, as owners, the MLB Commissioner, and the Union Chief try to find some common ground.
Here are my answers to what you are asking:
WHEN MIGHT THE SEASON START?..Target date could be June 1st if the country is able to get control of the virus and the reporting numbers of positive tests and deaths, makes a drive downward. If we see a spike, and this continues out of control, then the season is in jeopardy.
HOW MANY GAMES WILL THEY PLAY?…It won’t be 162. Now with at least another month of delays, it might not be 154. But baseball has played limited schedules in the past because of work stoppages.
WHAT DO THEY DO WITH THE SCHEDULE? .. Likely to rework the schedule and have more divisional games, less travel, less expense and everyone playing the same number of games. Maybe for one year, no East Coast trips or limitations on how many out of division series you play?
WHAT ABOUT SPRING TRAINING?… Players will stay in shape by working out on their own. The general consensus is a minimum 2-week restarted spring training camp, but possibly as long as four weeks to ramp up pitching.
WHAT ABOUT ROSTER SIZE?..They were supposed to start the 26-man roster this season. Maybe they open with 28-with the mandate the additional two slots have to be pitchers to avoid over-working of staffs to start the season for at least the first month.
WHAT ABOUT THE ALL STAR GAME?..It could be in jeopardy at Dodgers Stadium, if baseball decides to use what would be a week off and slot makeup games there.
WHAT ABOUT THE CALENDAR?…Some sources say games could be played into mid-October then start the playoffs. One theory is to move the ALCS-NLCS-World Series games to a neutral sight, a warm weather city or a Domed Stadium, and play those games into late November.
WHAT ABOUT THE RULES?…They stay in effect, the expansion of rosters, the insertion of the 15-day injured list, the new rules about optioning pitchers, the three batter minimum. All that was going into effect, will be in-effect.
WHAT ABOUT THE MINOR LEAGUES?..Their livelihood in jeopardy and not just because MLB wants to contract 42-teams and fold at least 4-leagues a year from now. Minor league teams need to have their expenses picked up by major league teams. Lack of cash flow from a reduction of their 144-game schedules becomes a real problem for local ownership. This could be a devastating season, unless baseball decides to make every league a ‘short season’ league, June 1st to September 1st.
WHAT IS HAPPENING TO MINOR LEAGUE PLAYERS?…They were ordered out of camps a week ago. MLB decided to give each minor leaguer a stipend of pay that runs till April 9th, when their season would have started. Minor leaguers don’t make a lot of money. Add to that the woes of some of the countries they live in, Venezuela, most notably, and players not wanting to return home. The lowers minor leaguers will have the hardest time financially, having to take jobs, and how do they stay in shape.
DO MAJOR LEAGUERS GET PAID?…It is still being negotiated with the Union. MLB does not have an ‘Act of God’ clause, which would allow them to stop pay of players if games were permanently cancelled. It has to be negotiated thru the Union. A Stephen Strasburg can live on past earnings for months. What about the lower minor leaguers in the Washington farm system.
WHAT HAPPENS TO FREE AGENCY?…A big debate, the Union is asking that all players be given a full year service time towards free agency, even if only 90-games are played instead of the 162-slate. Owners may want to pro-rate service time based on games played. Maybe the owners give the players the full year, but get concessions of many other things they need to jump start a shortened season.
WHAT HAPPENS TO THE RADIO-TV NETWORKS?…They take a massive hits in advertising revenue streams, from ESPN’s TV package, to your local broadcasters like Fox Sports-San Diego and the radio flagship ‘Fan 97.3’. FSSD and the Fan’s revenue from broadcasting games, pays the bills for the operation of the rest of the station. This is a huge dent that impacts day to day operations. Look for the radio station to ask for an extra year to be tacked on their broadcast deal to make up the money lost this year. Think of Entercom, owner of the Fan, and which has the play-by-play rights to at least 23-other major league stations. That is a lot of revenue they won’t see, and they still have to pay a lot to operate the sports-talk formats of all those stations, a very expensive format to be in.
There won’t be any opening days for the Padres-Dodgers-Angels as we expected this weekend. No one has put a dollar value on what this crisis will cost teams, but it has to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars if baseball sits dark till June 1st.
Waiting for the grand old game to get back. Think we will miss opening day and what we might not have for the next couple of months.