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Sara’s Diary: Day 103 without baseball: Play ball?

There will be baseball in 2020 but labor relations between players and owners will likely continue to deteriorate until the next CBA is negotiated.

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Tom Ricketts prior to a Cubs Cardinals game last September
Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Yesterday after months of back and forth that some have characterized as negotiating the MLBPA rejected the owners offer for a 2020 season by a vote of 33-5.

That led MLB to unilaterally set a 60-game season with players reporting by July 1. The season is subject to the MLBPA accepting the start date and the health and safety protocols set out by MLB.

As the news broke on Twitter I let out a long sigh. Some might have mistaken that sigh for relief, but honestly it was exhaustion. Am I glad there will (likely) be baseball in 2020? Obviously. I can’t wait to replays this diary with some deep dives into some PitchfX data to analyze Yu Darvish’s ridiculous arsenal of pitches or spend some time on Baseball Savant to see if Willson Contreras is still the best curve ball hitter in the league. I will enjoy every second of this 60-game season. However I will enjoy it knowing that the acrimony between the owners and players hasn’t evaporated with this edict from the Commissioner’s Office it’s been distilled into something stronger.

Last week Jayson Stark at the Athletic looked at some of the possible ways this bitter negotiation might spill into the 2021 offseason and the next collective bargaining agreement. I don’t really know how to break this to anyone but there is no good news here, it’s only going to get worse over the next two years:

So you think it’s ugly now, huh?

We interrupt the daily baseball combat report for this important message: It only gets worse from here.

Sorry we can’t be more cheerful, but no matter how this embarrassing baseball negotiating free-for-all ends, it won’t be the finish line. It will be more like the starting line.

This hasn’t really been a fight about the present state of baseball, you see. It has been the first round of the biggest fight of the 21st century in any sport: an epic donnybrook over baseball’s future.

I encourage you to read the whole thing, but industry insiders predict that there could be hundreds of players non-tendered next offseason and dozens of unsigned free agents with teams looking to unload high salary players at a rate that puts the slow offseasons of 2018 and 2019 to shame. And all of this is before we get to the main event: the CBA.

It’s going to be ugly, and there is no guarantee that fans will be back in ballparks in 2021 which will likely complicate team finances and large free agent deals even more.

So by all means join me in taking a deep breath today with the knowledge that at least some players will likely be reporting to Spring (Summer?) Training 2.0 in the next week, but recognize the fight is just beginning. Baseball is likely to enter a multi-year labor war that may put the strike shortened seasons of 1994-95 to shame.