MLB final pitch could be closer to Christmas than Halloween

RONALD BLUM (AP Baseball Writer)
The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- If the final pitch of the 2020 baseball season comes closer to Christmas than Halloween, that's fine with the players.

Major League Baseball owners ratified a 17-page agreement with the union on Friday in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, with players willing to extend the season as long as needed to cover as close to a full schedule as possible.

The deal provides for $170 million in salary advances and guarantees service time to players even if no games are played.

The season was to start Thursday and Game 7 of the World Series was on track to be Oct. 28. With opening day postponed until mid-May at the earliest, the final pitch could come deep into winter.

''We would play as long as we possibly could,'' union head Tony Clark said Friday. ''Obviously, weather becomes a factor.''

Neutral sites sites in warm-weather cities and domes are under consideration along with expanded playoffs.

''Is this a year where trying different things could be of benefit, and that is one of the things that in a one-year trial could be a benefit,'' Clark said.

He added players are ''very open'' to playing in empty stadiums if needed to get games in.

''That possibility exists and has been presented to the other side,'' he said. ''Players want to play ... even if it means their fans are watching at home.''

MLB agreed with the union to use ''best efforts to play as many games as possible, while taking into account player safety and health, rescheduling needs, competitive considerations, stadium availability, and the economic feasibility of various alternatives.''

Players would consider waiving the rule against playing no more than 20 days in a row. It remains unclear what the minimum number of games needed for a season would be.

''We haven't discussed an exact number,'' Clark said.

Players ratified the deal Thursday night. They would keep their salary advances if no games are played in 2020 and waived their claim to additional salaries if the season is scrapped.

MLB the right to cut the amateur draft from its usual 40 rounds to as few as five this year and as few as 20 in 2021.

''It is not ideal,'' Clark said.

Signing bonuses for players in the draft and international amateurs will be frozen at 2019 levels through 2021.

Owners had threatened to not hold the draft and stop international signings in an effort to save money. The annual cost of amateur signings is about $400 million,

It remains unclear whether the All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles will be played on July 14.

''Obviously the calendar is going to dictate a lot of what can and cannot be done,'' Clark said.

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