AP source: MLB owners OK plan that could lead to July start

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Ronald Blum,The Associated Press

Major League Baseball owners gave the go-ahead Monday, May 11, to making a proposal to the players’ union that could lead to the coronavirus-delayed season starting around the Fourth of July weekend in ballparks without fans, a plan that envisioned expanding the designated hitter to the National League for 2020.

Spring training could start in early to mid-June, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the plan were not announced.

MLB officials were slated to make a presentation to the union Tuesday, May 12, after press time. An agreement with the players’ association is needed, and talks were expected to be difficult – especially over a proposal for a revenue split that would be unprecedented for baseball. Players withstood a 7 1/2-month strike in 1994-1995 to fight off such a plan.

“If you do anything that resembles a cap, that smells like a cap, you’ve given too much,” Dave Stewart, a four-time 20-game winner who is now an agent and spent two years as Arizona’s general manager, said.

“A salary cap has been a non-starter for the players as long as I’ve been in baseball,” David Samson, president of the Expos and Marlins from 2002-2017, said. “I think when MLB is proposing a revenue split, it is with the full knowledge that the players’ union will automatically reject that.”

Each team would play about 82 regular-season games: against opponents in its own division plus interleague matchups limited to American League East versus National League East, American League Central versus National League Central and American League West versus National League West.

Postseason play would be expanded from 10 clubs to 14 by doubling wild cards in each league to four.

Teams would prefer to play at their regular-season ballparks but would switch to spring training stadiums or neutral sites if medical and government approvals can’t be obtained for games at home. Toronto might have to play home games in Dunedin, Florida.

“We’ll see where we will be in July,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said, whose state is the home of five MLB clubs and who has talked with baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred. “We certainly look forward to Major League Baseball and all sports resuming. But again, the question is when and that will be determined on the basis of public health and public safety and the spread of this virus.”

The All-Star Game, scheduled for Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, July 14, likely would be called off.

Medical issues will be at the forefront of talks along with economics.