If there is a major league baseball season this summer, games played in empty ballparks – whether at Fenway and in other major cities or at spring training sites. There will be no season, however, if owners and players cannot come together on finances. Steven Senne/Associated Press

This could be one of the most important weeks in the history of Major League Baseball. By week’s end, we should have a pretty good indication what the 2020 season might look like.

More importantly, we should get our first indication if there will be any baseball at all.

Baseball has a lot of logistical work ahead if it is going to try to return this summer. We are very much in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, with infection rates in many parts of the country still surging.

According to reports on Monday, Major League Baseball owners gave the OK to make a proposal to the players’ union to play about 82 games this summer, with Opening Day in early July. As we’ve noted before, there is no doubt MLB would love to have games played on the Fourth of July, a symbolic date for the country and the sport.

Boston canceled its July 4 celebration last week, meaning there will be no orchestra playing along the Charles River while fireworks explode overhead. Another loss in a year that has seen many.

Wouldn’t it be meaningful if we could watch a Red Sox game that day while cooking burgers and dogs on the grill? It would be a powerful reminder of the resiliency we will need as we work our way through the stops and starts that this recovery will feature.

Yet some of the biggest challenges the game will face this week will come from within. The potential for a major chasm between ownership and the MLB Players Association could hold up any progress toward returning to the field.

We know games will be played in empty ballparks, whether they are in major league cities or spring training sites. We also know that means teams will be forced to refund ticket sales for most, if not all, of this season’s games. The Red Sox have already begun the process, refunding ticket holders for April and May games.

It will take creativity to create a financial playing field that entices players to risk their health and return to the field. There have already been concessions made, but that was before we realized how long these days of social isolation would last.

Pro sports leagues know getting games back on TV could be a powerful boost to the nation’s psyche. Teams know there is the potential for massive ratings as people stay home looking for some sort of communal entertainment. They also know that much of their television revenue comes from playoff games.

While hockey and basketball have completed most of their regular seasons, baseball has an entire season to play. So everything will have to be negotiated with the players. And while a second spring training camp wouldn’t start until mid-June, the two sides soon need to agree to how this will play out.

And, as always, that begins with money. How much will players be willing to play for? How much potential loss will teams and the industry be able to handle? That is the first hurdle to clear before we can start talking about safety for the players and others who will get back to work in the months ahead.

Regular-season baseball games wouldn’t return for nearly two months. There is plenty of time to work out those details in the weeks ahead.

But none of that matters if the two sides can’t agree on a framework of how to handle the massive loss in revenues that come with an abbreviated baseball season. This week, we’ll get our first indication how close the sides really are. If they are not close, that could do more damage to the sport than any disease.

Tom Caron is a studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on NESN.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: