Growing sense of optimism MLB is going to play this season
Since the coronavirus pandemic shut down the game on March 12, I've been asked and asked and asked the $4 billion question.
"Do you think baseball will be back this summer?"
It's a great question, and a tough one to answer. Since COVID-19 placed its vice-like grip on the normal world we all used to know, nearly every opinion has been a guess, inside and outside of sports.
As we move into a critical week for major-league baseball, the guess here on getting the game back on the field as soon as early July is much more optimistic than it was a month ago.
There's a growing sense around the game that the owners and players will figure out a way to reach a financial agreement and open another spring training at some point in June before starting the abbreviated season three weeks later.
"We're all expecting a season," Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
DeJong prepped at Antioch High School before playing college baseball at Illinois State.
"Baseball players want to play," he said. "We're going to have to go out there. I think the game is bigger than all of this. We have to do everything we can to preserve the game in its most natural state. If this means a temporary season like this year where we have to try out some new measures, I'm all for it because I know I want to play.
"Once we get out there, we'll adjust. We want to stress that we're ready to play, ready to go out there."
White Sox catcher James McCann and designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion have echoed DeJong's sentiments, but two major issues need to be hashed out.
The first is player health and safety.
Owners submitted a 67-page proposal for playing the season and the Major League Players Association has reviewed the documents and sent them back with alterations.
"The at the field stuff, it's going to take some trust," DeJong said. "For your teammates to understand ... we want to be here and we're doing everything we can to stay healthy so we don't infect the others. One guy gets it in the clubhouse, then three guys are going to get it, then nine.
"It's just going to keep going like that. It's about stopping that one guy. We'll still be under some risk no matter what we do just being together."
If baseball is shut down for the rest of the season because players are concerned about getting sick, there is nothing for either side -- or baseball fans -- to be upset about.
If the game stays dark the rest of the year because of money squabbles, baseball is going to be subjected to some serious wrath. It would be deserved.
True, owners did agree to pay players their prorated salaries in late March based on the numbers of games played this season.
Reportedly, there was language in the agreement giving owners an out if games wound up being played in empty stadiums.
Barring a miracle, no fans would be permitted into games if they are played, so the owners now want players to share revenues gained from TV and radio broadcasts.
Seems like a fair ask given the massive damage caused by the coronavirus, but Tampa Bay Rays ace starting pitcher Blake Snell doesn't see it that way.
"I'm not playing unless I get mine," Snell said on a Twitch broadcast. "That's just the way it is for me. Like, I'm sorry you guys think differently, but the risk is way higher and the amount of money I'm making is way lower. Why would I think about doing that? You all (have to) understand (because) you all are going to be like, 'Blake, play for the love of the game. What's wrong with you? The money should not be a thing.'
"Bro. I am risking my life. And then be on lockdown, not around my family, not around the people I love, and getting paid way the (heck) less. And then the risk of injury runs every time I step on the field. So it's just, just not worth it. It's not. I love baseball to death, it's just not worth it."
Snell made some great points about the health risks players would be taking if they come back to play, but the "get mine" comment prompted waves of criticism.
"I don't want to hear another player moan and groan," said broadcaster Chris Russo, who hosts a show on MLB Network. "I don't want to hear Ian Snell or Blake Snell or whatever his name is. I don't want to hear Bryce Harper, (Scott) Boras. The union knew that if they were going to play games in an empty stadium that they knew they were going to have to take a price reduction. They knew it. So all of them can go to (heck). Go to (heck). That's garbage."
This is a huge week for baseball because owners are going to officially propose a financial plan to the players, likely on Tuesday.
Owners reportedly want a 50/50 revenue split with players, so the key question is how much money is projected to come in with no fans in the stands?
Given the risks the players would be taking, they likely deserve 60 or 70% of the revenue.
If an agreement can't be reached and there are no games this season, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said owners are going to lose close to $4 billion.
With much more to lose than the players' side, the onus is on the owners to be transparent and go above and beyond a 50/50 split.
White Sox relief pitcher Evan Marshall had a great take on the potential financial fiasco.
"Owners are looking out to protect their interests, and I understand that," Marshall told NBC Sports Chicago. "Businesses have ups and downs and all the players are already prepared that this is going to be a down year financially. There's no way around that.
"Us as players are just trying to protect ourselves and our futures and our values. Last year, profits had never been higher. Our salaries don't change. It's like when things are great, they get to keep that, but when they're bad, they're asking us to share in the losses."