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MLB owners propose half-season with expanded playoffs

An 82-game schedule could begin in early July.

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MLB chooses Selig replacement Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

MLB owners have come together on a proposal to start the regular season at the beginning of July, according to multiple reports. Spring training would likely begin in mid-June and teams would play around 82 regular season games in their home ballparks without fans. The schedule would have to be re-done to have teams cut down on travel, with AL Central teams playing primarily teams within their own division, and in the National League Central Division. The designated hitter rule would be universal under this proposal and rosters would be expanded. The All-Star Game, scheduled to be held at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles this year, would likely be cancelled.

The playoffs would be expanded from 10 teams to 14 teams this season, with post-season games still taking place at home stadiums, rather than at a neutral site as some have suggested. The top seed in each league would get a first-round bye, while the other six teams in each league match up in the first-round.

Owners will now need to get the union to sign off on the proposal. Players have expressed some concern about their safety, particularly those with underlying health concerns. Owners and players are also at odds over how much compensation players will receive. Back in March, the two sides agreed on having salaries pro-rated this year for fewer games, but now owners want to reduce salary even further because of a loss of gate revenues from not having fans. According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, owners plan to propose sharing 48 percent of revenues with players. Owners claim they expect to lose about 40% of their gross revenue from ticket sales, concessions and parking. The union is expected to battle owners over the issue, claiming they already had a deal back in March.

It has not been reported what safety measures would have to be put in place to mitigate risk enough for players to take the field. With no fans in the stands, players would likely have to spread out in the stands, rather than cluster in the dugout, with spitting and high-five prohibited. Robot umpires may have to be used behind home plate, and masks will likely need to be required for non-players. Mass testing will need to be employed with some protocols if a player or employee tests positive for COVID-19.

Leagues in Taiwan and Korea have already started back up, although those countries have had a sharp reduction in COVID-19 cases, while the number of new cases in the United States continues remain over 20,000 per day. Major League Baseball participated in a large study with Stanford University that subjected player and employees to testing, with 0.7 percent testing positive.