In addition to Major League Baseball and Players Association needing to arrive at an agreement on an economic plan for the 2020 regular season, the two sides must also negotiate health and safety protocols in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
While MLB was preparing their initial proposal for financial matters, they first provided the MLBPA with a look at a 67-page document that suggested various means players would need to abide by if this season were to be held.
The thorough report called for a slew of changes, such as eliminating spitting and high-fives, having non-field personnel constantly wearing masks, and potentially using empty stands to comply with physical distance guidelines.
Although MLB and the MLBPA remain in disagreement over salaries for this season, the league did have a positive response to feedback from the union regarding the health and safety protocols, according to Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic:
The union offered comments on the league’s original 67-page proposal, and the league mostly signed off on them, one source said. Still to be negotiated: The ability of players, both high-risk and not, to opt out of the season entirely.
Although players would need to break from long-held norms, they generally have been receptive to complying with changes so long as it paved the way returning to the field.
“I just hope they can figure out a way where we can at least elbow dab or something. I need some encouragement from the guys,” Clayton Kershaw said during a recent Los Angeles Dodgers Zoom party.
“Everybody knows I like to get a firm fist-bump, so I need something. I think I could maybe do away with spitting, but I think most guys would say they couldn’t do that. We’re going to need to figure it out.”
Justin Turner added: “It’s tough, because there’s so many little nuances in the game of baseball. I think teammates enjoy celebrating during the game and a lot of that is by high-fiving or a nice pat on the butt when a guy walks by and you say, ‘Nice play.’
“To not have that anymore, there’s going to have to be new creative ways to celebrate those moments. One thing about baseball that’s cool is the pregame handshakes. We’re going to have to do something else for that, too.”
That the two sides are largely in agreement on safety is one of the few positive developments in what’s been a contentious past few weeks.
MLB predictably rejected the 114-game proposal from the Players Association, but rather than present their own counter, the league is said to be internally discussing the possibility of simply imposing a shorter season.
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