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Tampa Bay Rays announce “We’re back.”

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It’s hard to believe it nearly didn’t happen. If you’ve been under a rock, here’s the quick recap:

After four consecutive offers by MLB to pay the players 50 games worth of salary in the regular season (no matter how many games occurred), the players demanded to be told “When & Where” to show up for a season to be mandated by the Commissioner. No more bargaining, let’s just play.

In response, MLB made a fifth offer of 60 games at full pay, trying to bring the MLB Players’ Association back to the negotiating table. It worked, and after news broke of a new $1 billion television deal for Turner Broadcasting to have the rights to a mere portion of playoff games, the MLBPA countered with 70 games and an extra $25 million added to the playoffs bonus pool next season, and MLB got very upset at the players.

Each of the proposals had nuances, like expanded playoffs or forgiven bonuses. Both of the most recent deals included clauses around not suing each other as well, but with no agreement being reached the old fashioned way, you can bet that’s coming, to baseball’s further embarrassment.

Thankfully, the March 26th agreement signed by both parties allowed MLB to implement a season if the negotiations did not work. With the players holding firm on their negotiating positions, they’ve given nothing away ahead of next year’s negotiations for the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, while guaranteeing the players fully paid salaries.

MLB and the MLBPA hammered out some new health guidelines, and now the season is upon us, with players reporting for camp July 1 and the season beginning three weeks later.

It remains to be seen if this will be a peaceful three weeks, as players and staff risk COVID-19 exposure by returning to work. Illness could derail entire teams, or even end the season early, preventing the owners from reaching the lucrative post-season contracts that kept them from acquiescing to more than 60 games this year.

We don’t know much about how the pandemic will be impacting the game just yet, but we do know one thing: We’re back.