A proposal to reportedly start the Major League Baseball season in July could have a big impact on the league’s 30 clubs, including the Chicago Cubs and White Sox.
According to the Associated Press, the league’s owners gave the go-ahead Monday to a proposal to the players’ union that would lead to the coronavirus-delayed season starting around the Fourth of July weekend in ballparks, without fans in the stands.
According to the report, spring training would start at team complexes in Arizona and Florida in early to mid-June.
After that, each team would play approximately 82 games under the proposal, against opponents from their own division. Since the league is evenly split with 15 American League and 15 National League clubs, interleague games between teams would also be part of the mix, meaning that the Cubs and White Sox would still face each other in the new schedule.
A big part of the proposal is convincing local and state governments to allow teams to play in their home stadiums. If teams are unable to play, even with empty stadiums, then the proposal would have those clubs play in neutral sites or at their spring training complexes.
Currently, Illinois is in phase two of the state’s phased reopening, prohibiting gatherings of people. Phase three of the plan allows up to 10 people to gather, but it isn’t until phase four that 50 or fewer people can gather, the likely jumping off point for a baseball game between teams comprised of 25 or more players and even more coaches and support staff.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said she believes baseball will be played in the city this summer, but cautioned that it could only happen if key safety requirements are met.
"We've had ongoing conversations about what (opening the season) might look like,” she said in a late April press conference. “We're obviously a ways away from that, because we haven't seen the level of cases decline on a consistent basis. We're still seeing them rise. But can I envision a world where a baseball might return to Chicago this summer? Yes. Is it likely to be without fans? Probably.”
The league has also reportedly come up with several key rule changes, including a provision allowing National League clubs to use a designated hitter for the 2020 season to lower the chance of injury to pitchers.
The change, which has been bandied about in negotiations for years, could increase offense in the Senior Circuit, which has resisted adding the DH to lineups since it was instituted into the American League in 1973.
Other changes include the expansion of the postseason, with 14 teams making the playoffs instead of 10. Each league would have four wild card winners instead of two, according to the proposal.
Rosters would be expanded from 26 to around 30, and each club would likely be given the option of adding up to 20 players to the MLB equivalent of the NFL’s practice squad mechanism as a way of allowing teams to continue developing players with minor league games likely out of the question as long as fans can’t attend games at stadiums.
MLB officials are slated to make a presentation to the union on Tuesday. An agreement with the players’ association is needed, and talks are expected to be difficult, especially over a proposal for a revenue split that would be unprecedented for baseball.
Owners have proposed splitting revenues with players on a 50-50 basis, a significant change to current compensation models. Players are expected to fight the proposal, and are also expected to push for assurances that the league will help keep players and coaches, as well as their families, safe from coronavirus.