There may be KC Royals baseball in 2020 after all. Developments Monday appear to have the game headed for a July Opening Day.
Maybe, just maybe, after weeks of watching major league clubs and players fight, bicker, posture, and puff, the end is near. And maybe, just maybe, after the last three days’ news of positive COVID-19 tests, spring training complex closures, and on-again, off-again union votes on club proposals, KC Royals baseball won’t have to wait ’til next year.
It seems the game is headed for Opening Day in July.
At least that’s where things stood late Monday night after a curious day of the starts and stops so unfortunately characteristic of the long, tortured process of getting baseball back on track.
First came news that the union would vote Monday on the clubs’ proposed 60-game schedule at full pro rata pay. But, true to the form the union established over the weekend, the planned vote was delayed.
Then came the vote and its expected result — the players once again rejected the 60-game schedule, presumably because they simply want to play more than the owners want them to. (The more they play, the more they make…and the more the clubs have to pay ’em).
So, by early Monday evening, baseball appeared to be where everyone knew this debacle would probably end — with commissioner Rob Manfred, a man waiting for 30 clubs, his collective employers, to direct him to impose a season or shut the game down until 2021.
But it couldn’t, after all that preceded Monday, be that simple. And it wasn’t. Word came just into the evening that Manfred wasn’t expected to impose a season immediately. It seemed the owners had inflicted yet another wound to themselves and the game.
Naturally, little time passed before MLB announced baseball will, indeed, have a 2020 season, and asked the union to answer two important questions–can its members report to training camps by July 1, and will they agree to the existing pandemic-related health and safety protocols?
MLB was deafeningly silent on the number of games it will schedule, but ESPN’s Jeff Passan didn’t take long to fill in the blanks; it looks like the KC Royals and all other clubs will play 60:
That the players will fulfill the “strong expectation” of which Passan tweeted is a virtual certainty. They wanted at least 10 more games than the 60 the clubs last proposed, but speculation has been rampant recently that Manfred would impose a 48-game slate; 60 is better than 48. And, in a statement issued Monday night, the union confirmed it expects to ratify the health and safety protocols soon. Resuming spring training July 1 shouldn’t be a problem.
The KC Royals will, it seems, play this year and Opening Day will be in July. It will be a short season sans features both the players and owners appeared to want–expanded playoffs with more teams and games, and a universal designated hitter, for this year and next. (The DH will extend to the National League for this season via previous agreement). Simply put, the parties’ failure to reach a global deal scuttled those extras.
Also left in the wake of the ugly and unsuccessful negotiations is an enhanced postseason pool for players and the mutual waivers of claims the owners desperately wanted and could only get with a negotiated settlement of all issues. By rejecting the clubs’ last offer, the players preserved their right to file grievances concerning the owners’ conduct during the negotiations; expect the union to formally accuse the clubs of failing to bargain in good faith. It may be a charge that can stick.
Now, it appears only one thing can derail baseball’s return, and it’s the one thing the players and owners can’t stop. COVID-19, the elephant in the room since spring training, hasn’t gone away. Whether the game can hold it off now becomes the focus.
Baseball, and the KC Royals, appear almost back on track. A July Opening Day can’t come too soon.