Column: A 60-game MLB season might not sound like much. But pulling it off with the coronavirus still out there would be a major feat.

A 60-game Major League Baseball season?

That’s only four more than a regular college baseball season and the prorated equivalent of a six-game NFL season.


Is “Everyone In,” as the Chicago Cubs hyped before the coronavirus abruptly halted spring training March 12 and their plans for a rebound 2020 season under new manager David Ross?

An awkward, short-term resolution finally crystallized Tuesday after players agreed to report to camps by July 1 and the sides agreed to health and safety protocols. That was Commissioner Rob Manfred’s request Monday night after the MLB Players Association’s executive board rejected the owners’ proposal.


The resolution occurs under the dark cloud of a likely grievance to be filed by the MLBPA over its unfulfilled request to play more games at prorated pay, versus the owners’ desire to play fewer games without paying fans, complete a regular season by Sept. 27 and hopefully complete a postseason by the end of October, capitalizing on television dollars before the second wave of the coronavirus is expected to arrive.

But those are water balloons compared with the heavyweight punches expected to be thrown at the bargaining table before the current collective bargaining agreement expires shortly after the 2021 season.

After the union rejected its latest offer Monday, MLB issued a statement outlining what the MLBPA executive board rejected by a 33-5 vote: $25 million guaranteed in playoff money in 2020, $33 million in forgiven salary advances and an expanded postseason format in 2020 and 2021.

Two other provisions of the rejected proposal — expanding the designated hitter to the National League and starting extra innings with a runner on second base — reportedly will survive.

Left out of the MLB press release was an unsuccessful plan to put advertising on uniforms, thus preserving jerseys from resembling an Indianapolis 500 race car.

The condensed schedule, which has yet to be announced, will maintain an intradivision emphasis. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported Tuesday night that the plan is to play 40 division games and 20 interleague games against the corresponding geographic division.

A condensed schedule also magnifies each game; a two-game losing streak would equate to a five-game skid in a traditional season format.

Well before the coronavirus threatened baseball, the Cubs already were at a crossroads. Core players Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo are less than two seasons from free agency; veteran Jon Lester was hoping to pitch well enough to earn another contract with the Cubs, even if they don’t pick up his $25 million option; and President Theo Epstein had overhauled the player development and scouting departments with his own future uncertain after 2021.

The lost revenue caused by the pandemic clouds the possibility of signing players to long-term contracts, as Epstein mentioned to season ticket holders during a Zoom chat Thursday. The empty stands will reflect that, as the pop of the catcher’s glove and crack of the bat will resemble the sounds of a simulated game with more intensity.

But that’s secondary, as many Cubs players — young and old — expressed their desire to return to the field by participating in the “Tell Us When and Where” tweetfest last week. Jesse Rogers of ESPN first reported that the Cubs were one of the few teams that agreed to MLB’s terms for a 60-game schedule.

These 60 games likely represent the final time the nucleus of the 2016 World Series champions plays together. It could be their farewell tour, and they deserve the chance to make another title run.

But the bigger opponent — the coronavirus — looms larger even as the Cubs and the other 29 major-league teams institute and follow a thick set of safety protocols.


Don’t expect the 2020 World Series winner to flaunt its trophy or demand gaudy championship rings. Titles should be cherished, but every day brings sobering reminders of the paralyzing hold the virus maintains over the world.

What Crane Kenney, the Cubs president of business operations, told Marquee Sports Network two months ago remains just as true today.

“The virus will tell us when the season starts.”

At this point, 60 games would be a major achievement.

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