There’s a thing that little kids do when they just stop doing whatever it is they are supposed to be doing until they get what they want. That can be things like homework or chores or even something as simple as walking through a store. It is a temper tantrum, and most parents are smart enough to know it is not going to last long and you have to let the kid get it out of their system without giving in. It’s one of those threats that seems big to the kid, but the important party (their parent) sees right through it.
That’s kind of where we seem to be with negotiations between the players and the league. Last week, for the second time, negotiations were cut off. This time it was the owners cutting off the talks after the players made a counter offer for a 70-game season. The owners had offered 60 games and told the players to either approve that 60-game season or they would impose their own schedule as allowed in the March 26 agreement, probably with something like a 50-game season.
It was expected that we were going to see a vote by the players over the weekend and finally get a conclusion to all of this, but that didn’t happen. There are some concerns here, largely related to the COVID spikes being seen in almost half the states of the country. We’ll have a bit more on that later, but in terms of this agreement this is a big, big deal. The players have a legitimate worry that they would be giving up a lot for 2021 — including expanded playoffs — with real risk that the 2020 season would be cut off early, and perhaps even before it begins. So, the league offered an olive branch on Sunday, saying the agreements for 2021 would be scrapped if the 2020 season was cut off before it was supposed to end.
There are still some questions that need to be answered regarding that offer — most notably, does it only happen if there is not a minimum number of games met or just if the season ends prematurely. Players were, according to the report linked above, actually on the cusp of voting before this offer was extended by the owners, but they decided to hold off until they got more details. It seems likely we’ll get an answer soon, perhaps even today. Keep in mind, though, that another part of these COVID spikes is obviously an increased risk for the players and everyone else involved in the game, and there may be at least some who don’t think they should be playing at all. It’s a reasonable line of thinking.
A notable part of this COVID spike in terms of what it means for MLB is that two of the states with the most alarming trends are Florida and Arizona. Obviously, these are the two states that host spring training. Team facilities have been shut down for the time being for deep cleaning after a rash of positive tests in the Phillies organization, and it’s been reported that 40 players and staffers tested positive for COVID last week alone. Because of that, teams, including the Red Sox, will hold any spring training or training camp or whatever you want to call it, in their hometown.
It’s unclear what exactly that would look like for the Red Sox. Would they be playing games? Would they have to travel to, say, Tampa Bay and Miami to take on the Rays and Marlins? Would they just be playing intrasquad games? Would they only be at Fenway? Would they utilize minor-league parks in Lowell, Pawtucket and Portland? Are they going to strike a deal with local colleges to use their facilities? There’s more questions than answers at this point, and I’d expect that to be the case for the foreseeable future.
For now, though, the next step is waiting to see how the players respond. As always, we’ll keep you posted when new developments come up.