Sports leagues moving towards reopening, except for baseball

Yesterday, the National Hockey League presented to the public its plan, approved by the players, for completing the season. The NHL intends to go straight to a 24 team playoff to be held in two venues (not selected yet). It’s not certain that the NHL will be able to pull this off, but at least it has a plan in place.

The National Basketball Association wants to complete its season in Disney World. I don’t think the details are set, but at least the NBA seems to be moving forward.

English Premier League teams are about to resume contact training. The EPL is moving towards resuming its schedule in June, wrapping it up in late July or early August, and starting its next season in mid-September.

And then there’s major league baseball.

If MLB is to have anything that looks like a season, it needs to get players back to spring training soon. However, the owners and players reportedly are miles apart on money.

The owners floated a plan for splitting revenue with the players this season only on a 50-50 basis. 50-50 seems fair, but the players’ union howled that this was a de facto salary cap.

It’s unclear why baseball players can’t live with something like a salary cap for just one exceptional season. The NFL has a salary cap, even though its players participate in a much more dangerous sport. The NBA also has one.

However, the owners quickly backed off on revenue sharing and presented the players with a different plan. This plan cut negotiated salaries, and cut most deeply the salaries of the sport’s highest earners.

Cutting high earners the most seems like a reasonable way to proceed during a time of great national hardship. Whether, overall, the cuts are fair or too deep, I cannot say. That’s the good thing about a 50-50 split — there’s a clear and direct connection between revenue and compensation.

In any case, the players howled again.

Thus, it looks like MLB is lagging well behind other sports when it comes to reopening. Unlike baseball players, the athletes in the NHL, NBA, and EPL seemingly are not seriously at odds with the owners.

To me, the most interesting question is whether, if baseball doesn’t have a 2020 season, it will be missed much. The sport was missed profoundly, I believe, in April and May. It will be missed in June.

However, by July, the NHL might well be holding its always riveting playoffs. The NBA might well be playing again. By late July, NFL teams will probably be in training camp.

Hardcore baseball fans will miss MLB, nonetheless. Ordinary fans will join them in missing outings at the ballpark. However, games with fans in the stands apparently are out of the question in any plausible scenario.

I doubt that ordinary fans will lament much the absence of baseball on television — not with so many alternatives. At the same time, they are likely to hold it against MLB if, unlike other major sports, it can’t get its act together in this time of pandemic and economic crisis.

If owners and players sense this, perhaps the realization will drive them to hammer out an agreement.

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