There is not a person who is involved with the potential return of professional sports – from politicians to owners to players – who has not made the assertion that safety of players, staff and fans is first and foremost. Not a one.
So, what is the problem with that?
In some cases, it seems real and sincere. In others, it can feel at times more like it is being said because they know it is the politically correct thing to do. Some can talk about it, while others are going to have to live it.
How could anyone tell the difference?
In my experience, actions speak louder than words.
In the case of Major League Baseball’s recent proposal to return, seemingly every detail of how and when play would begin and how money would be handled were leaked out in advance. We know when games will be played in the regular season and post-season. We know roster sizes. We know how owners want to split the financial proceeds.
The leaked details were so specific that MLB Players Association head Tony Clark soundly and publicly rejected the deal before it was even formally presented.
Same as it has been all along, noticeably missing from the proposal shared in the media were any substantive details on that supposed first priority of safety. Those questions may include:
- What are the details behind testing plans for players, support staff and families?
- What happens to individuals, revised game schedules and compensation if/when there is a positive case?
- What if play in home cities for all 30 teams is not cleared by local and state officials in time to begin the season? How would MLB manage regional schedules if some teams are housed in Florida and Arizona?
- Can uncomfortable players opt out of 2020? If so, could they change their mind and return later in the season?
Even if these kinds of very substantive “what if?” discussions have been occurring, then those one would expect to be involved have not been fully engaged.
Folks working in baseball operations departments have been surprised at how little conversation there's been with MLB about potential complications. One of many, many examples: Will players traded from one team to another require quarantine ?
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) May 11, 2020
For weeks, the necessary answers to these and other related questions have been blown past, with a shrug and an assumption that these messy matters will be worked out by someone else at some point in the future. Then 99 percent of the words written and spoken focus on the money and the schedule.
Well, that was fine before, but no longer. The future is now. It is time to stop being vague. It is time to stop glossing over major questions by assuming they will be answered later. It is time to bring the specifics out into the open.
If MLB can present hard dates for when spring training camp and the regular season will begin, they should also be able to step up and explain every detail – not just how the money will be shared.
One can hope these specifics have been developed and will come to light in the negotiations ahead between MLB and the MLBPA which lead to both sides finding the necessary middle ground.
But if these details have not been fleshed out, why not?
In the meantime, we can only consider what we are told. If health and well-being is really first and foremost, why are we hearing so little about it?
Perhaps sensing that presenting the highly controversial revenue sharing proposal in the initial meeting would not start talks on the right foot, MLB reportedly focused its presentation on both economics and health and safety. An 80-page document detailing the latter is to be presented to the MLBPA in the upcoming days.
MLB preparing to present lengthy document outlining health and safety protocols to union. Story: https://t.co/VbASZ6o5F2
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) May 13, 2020
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