Commentary: MLB's latest plan for 2020 has issues


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Commentary: MLB's latest plan for 2020 has issues

By my count, this makes MLB's fifth contingency plan, and those are only the ones we know about. Last night, I had the chance to talk to a couple of my sources who are directly involved with the game at the Major League Level. One source told me that the contingency plans were never supposed to be made public yet, but leaks occurred. I suppose if, for no other reason, the plans were supposed to remain under lock and key, to keep fans from getting their hopes up. Too late.

MLB's latest contingency plan for 2020 comes with issues and obstacles, but then again, so do each of the other plans. Working around this pandemic won't come easy. It's going to be both expensive and a logistical nightmare.

According to an article in MLB Trade Rumors, MLB is now planning for games to played at home parks in 2020. Calling it their "preferred plan," the league wants as many teams as possible to play in their regular stadiums this season. Before you start ordering tickets, the no fans rule is still in effect.

According to the league, if this idea proves to be workable, schedules would be further revamped to minimize travel between cities. If you're a fan of interleague play, then this plan is for you. As part of the travel limitations, teams would mostly play teams within their division, along with teams from the corresponding division of the opposite league. So, the Cubs' primary opponents would include the Brewers, Cards, Reds, and Pirates, as well as those teams from the AL Central (White Sox, Twins, Indians, Royals, and Tigers).

According to Mark Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, previous plans – including the Arizona Plan and the Cactus League/Grapefruit League Plan – are now being called "less likely" and are "being downplayed or dismissed."

I already see a ton of problems with this.

First of all, how are you going to allow some teams ("as many as possible") to play at their home parks, while others must play nothing but away games? Maybe the home field advantage is lessened without having fans in the seats, but players still have an advantage, as they know how balls play in their home parks. If MLB chooses to make the entirety of 2020 an exhibition type season, then no big deal, but if these guys are going to compete for a World Series appearance, it isn't right to give certain teams a potentially unfair advantage.

So far as travel boundaries are concerned, I did a little research. Let's first take the example of the Cubs playing NL Central and AL Central teams. Pittsburgh is 412 (air) miles from Chicago, and Kansas City is 500 miles. Those are the two furthest points on the proposed travel schedule. Now, take the Padres and what their travel schedule would include. A trip from San Diego to Seattle encompasses a total of 1,050 air miles, so just about double what the Cubs would travel. In the Eastern MLB divisions, Toronto to Miami would be a 1,233-mile flight, while Boston to Miami is a 1,258-mile flight – so much for limiting travel.

If teams are going to charter flights, it makes no difference how far they travel. The Cubs would be no more (or less) at risk if they were to play the Padres in San Diego, as opposed to playing the Twins in Minnesota. I've said it 100 times, and I'll repeat it: Cut out interleague play this year, place an emphasis on playing teams in your division, and scatter in some games against the other pair of divisions within your league.

Oh, one last thing – California Governor, Gavin Newsom has already said that there will be no live sporting events in California for quite a while, meaning that MLB's plan is going to have to exclude any games played in Los Angeles, San Diego, Anaheim, Oakland, and San Francisco.

Further complicating any progress on a proposed schedule is the issue of pay for the players. The Umpires Union finally reached a settlement with MLB for 2020, but player pay remains an issue. One of my sources told me last night that the players aren't exactly embracing MLB's proposal for even less pay due to playing at empty parks. The MLBPA didn't even want to settle for the pro-rata salaries that they ultimately agreed to, and now MLB wants to take out another chunk of pay because it isn't safe to put fans in the seats.

At no point in time did MLB ever plan on playing in front of fans when they put the contingency plans together, leaving players and agents to ask exactly what that they agreed to. No stipulations were ever made about playing for less if the gates remained closed to fans, and according to my source, the deal that the MLBPA agreed to was made with the understanding that stadiums would be empty.

As the tension between the sides continues to rise, there may be yet another hard-stop to in a season which hasn't even started. Meanwhile, all of these issues are also playing into the possibility of a work stoppage after the 2021 season, when the current CBA expires.

If there's any good news to come out of this story, it's that players are being told to be ready for a June 1st restart to Spring Training. Of course, the virus will have to subside, and the CDC will first have to give a green light. The sad part is, MLB has been working on these plans for over six weeks now, and they appear to be no closer to a resolution now than they were then.

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