Major League Baseball team owners have approved a proposal for starting the coronavirus-delayed 2020 season in early July in ballparks without spectators, according to multiple reports Monday.
The campaign was shut down two months ago while pre-season games were underway and the proposal for an 82-game season, about half the normal length, must still be approved by the players union.
Negotiatons were expected to begin on Tuesday, according to ESPN, The Athletic and NBC Sports.
The MLB plan becomes the first formal proposal for a major US sports league to exit a coronavirus hiatus, with the NBA, Major League Soccer and the National Hockey League seasons having been halted by the deadly outbreak.
The proposal would have players report to training camps starting in mid-June for about three weeks.
The playoffs would expand from 10 to 14 teams, with two extra wild-card clubs in both the National and American Leagues. The playoffs would end in early November, only slightly later than normal.
Teams would mostly play against clubs from their own division, minimizing travel and expenses. They would also face clubs from the same division in the opposite league.
Designated hitters would come to bat instead of pitchers for National League teams for the first time in history. AL clubs have had the rule in place for decades.
Teams would play at their own home ballparks where allowed by state and local governments. Teams whose home stadiums are unavailable would play out of their spring training faciltiies in Florida or Arizona, states where most stay-at-home rules have been eased.
Due to border crossing issues with Canada, the Toronto Blue Jays might have to play out of their Florida training headquarters.
Playing without ticketbuyers would be expected to trim 40% off MLB revenues and the owners reportedly would seek a revenue-sharing deal similar to what the NFL and NBA have used.
That might cause an issue with players, who have already agreed to lower pay for a shrunken season. MLB team owners have never offered to share extra profits with players so they might object to having to share losses with the team owners this time.
Health issues would also have to be solved to the players' satsifaction.
Teams would expand rosters from 26 to 30 players with a support squad of 20 players available as replacements in case of illness or injury.