M’s notebook: What we know about a big week for MLB’s plan to return

May 11, 2020, 10:40 AM
Mariners pitcher Marco Gonzales...
When Marco Gonzales and the Mariners return, it could be for a 78 or 82-game season. (Getty)

It should be a busy week for baseball with a lot to keep an eye on as the sport looks to take a step forward in attempts to start a season. There are three major stories to watch.

Mariners GM: Reports and discussions on MLB’s return are encouraging

We learned last week that the league was close to finalizing a plan for a restart that could be presented to the players. That could happen as soon as tomorrow with MLB owners meeting Monday to vote on that plan.

In the past couple of weeks it has become apparent that compensation would be a major issue in getting an agreement. Owners are looking to reduce player salaries to mitigate gate and day of game revenue losses, and players union chief Tony Clark insists that prorated salaries had already been agreed to in March negotiations. The sport cannot afford a protracted battle over dollars – the optics even in the best of times are horrible.

According to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, an historic revenue sharing plan is part of what will be presented to the players with MLB offering at least 48 percent of revenues. This could be an incredibly complex negotiation as what constitutes revenue, both for individual teams and the the league could be up for various interpretations. This should be very worth watching.

While salary will be a hurdle in the path to an agreement, player’s reps in individual interviews over the weekend have stressed the safety and health of the players was the first and foremost concern that had to be addressed before any steps could be taken forward. The questions have been abundant as no concrete plan has been shared as of yet. Players have been hearing what we have been hearing to this point, but once passed by ownership they will finally have the opportunity to ask questions and give input as to what they feel comfortable with.
When the plan becomes public, it is expected the following will be a part of it:

• Spring training will restart in June either in home parks or spring training facilities in Arizona and Florida with the season to start in the first week of July.

• Teams will play in their home parks where permitted, and those unable to do so will play at their spring facilities or possibly share an MLB ballpark with another team.

• A 78- or 82-game season is expected with an expanded playoff.

• Teams will be limited to division and their counterpart geographical division in the other league.

• A universal DH could be employed to lessen the workload on National League starting pitchers coming off the shutdown.

• An expanded roster will be used with a large taxi squad available to fill needs that come up during the season.

Away from the field, news broke Friday that the 2020 MLB Draft will be reduced to just five rounds. This is a wildly unpopular decision with far reaching implications and not just with those outside the game. By all reports, a number of clubs preferred a 10-round option. Nothing has been officially announced as of yet. Whether or not the decision is revisited in light of the outcry (most likely not) remains to be seen.

Lastly, we finally heard the results of the antibody test that most MLB teams participated in.

To recap, a major study run by Stanford University and the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory sought to test populations in major cities across the country. MLB volunteered to participate in the study and was chosen to do so in large part due to their logistical capabilities in executing the test. Teams were able to quickly distribute and track the tests to staff, players, stadium workers and others. In all, 5,603 tests were completed. The results? Surprising, according to Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, who ran the test.

“I was expecting a larger number,” he told ESPN.

Just 60 of the returned tests showed positive for coronavirus antibodies. That number translates to 0.7 percent of MLB employees tested, far lower than the national average.

Good news, bad news, no news?

Well, it’s data, and while the test is not perfect or perfectly representative (see the article for more) it does confirm that we are still in the early stages of spread in this country. I would suspect that one reason the numbers are lower for baseball than the general population is that baseball shut down relatively early. As teams were leaving Arizona, offices in their home states were closed as well, many before local stay-at-home orders were put in place.

MLB stressed from the beginning that participating in this test was not intended to be a jump start to any sort of return to play. We don’t know how many players took part in the study – small sample size but I know of more non-players who participated than players – but it is hard to imagine how this would have had impact going forward unless the numbers were dramatic.

ICYMI: Mariners content

If you have the need for a little more baseball talk, check out our weekly Mariners Insider podcast, which included conversations with Mariners rookie pitcher Justin Dunn, Texas Rangers beat writer Evan Grant, and a little more on the KBO and what to look for from David Kim.

Also, if you are looking for a smile, who better to provide it than Rick Rizzs, who gave the incredible story of recreating games in the minors. I cannot imagine how incredibly difficult this was as he was provided with just the bare basics: 6-3, F-7, K… Let’s just say he got creative. I have known Rick for years and had no idea that he did this.

• It’s Griffey Week on Mariners Classics. You can catch these games at 7 p.m. every night on 710 ESPN Seattle this week:

Monday, May 11: Ken Griffey Sr. and Jr. hit back-to-back homers – 1990
Tuesday, May 12: Griffey beats New York – 1995
Wednesday, May 13: The final Kingdome game – 1999
Thursday, May 14: Ken Griffey Jr.’s 56th home run – 1996
Friday, May 15: “Old Time Religion” – 2009
Saturday, May 16: Jr.’s number retirement – 2016
Sunday, May 17: Griffey’s three-homer game vs. Roger Clemens – 1997

Follow Mariners insider Shannon Drayer on Twitter.

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M’s notebook: What we know about a big week for MLB’s plan to return