White Sox, Cubs fans won’t have much tolerance for baseball labor strife

Players and owners reportedly discussed health, safety and economics but held off on discussing the owners’ proposal for a 50/50 revenue split.

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The Cubs and White Sox won’t play some teams in their own leagues but they will play each other under a likely plan that would be in place should there be baseball in 2020.

The Cubs and White Sox won’t play some teams in their own leagues but they will play each other under a likely plan that would be in place should there be baseball in 2020.

Paul Beaty/AP

Guaranteed Rate Field stands silent. Wrigley Field does, too.

Outside of Chicago, every other major-league ballpark in a nation felled by the coronavirus is empty, as well. There is hope, however, that the parks will be occupied by teams — but not fans — by early July if team owners and the players’ union can agree on financial terms for what would be perhaps an 82-game season, about half the usual 162.

On Tuesday, the players and owners reportedly discussed health, safety and economics but held off on talking about the hot-button topic, the owners’ proposal for a 50/50 revenue split, a tug-of-war the sides will have to get ironed out in two or three weeks. That would be a “deadline” with a targeted July 1-4 start to the season needed, preceded by a scaled-down spring training of about three weeks.

If you’re one of the millions reeling from the physical, mental or financial effects of the pandemic and hoping for a return of baseball as soon as possible, covering your eyes and ears or shutting down your phone while this gets hashed out might be the thing to do, unless billionaires-vs.-millionaires tiffs are your cup of tea.

The last thing baseball’s image needs is a squabble between the two sides, but that’s what we’re probably going to get.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker took the owners’ side Tuesday, saying “fans deserve their pastime back” and that he is “disappointed that players are holding out for these very, very high salaries and payments during a time when I think everybody is sacrificing.”

It’s the players, though, not the owners, who would be taking health risks by playing baseball again.

When we last saw the Cubs and Sox playing on March 12, when spring training was shut down and the start of the season delayed, both teams were enthused about embarking on stepping-stone seasons, the Sox to a window of contention and the Cubs to a new era under new manager David Ross, trying to keep their closing window propped up.

If the owners and the players’ union settle on a deal, we’ll see a schedule that will keep the crosstown series intact. Each team would play opponents in its own division, plus interleague games limited to National League Central (Cubs) vs. American League Central (Sox), NL East vs. AL East and NL West vs. AL West. Seeing them on TV or listening on the radio only is likely with games being played in empty ballparks, at least initially.

Rosters will expand from 26 to 30 with “taxi squads” of up to 20 players available to reinforce rosters, playoff teams will increase from 10 to 14 and the designated hitter will be used by NL teams (new for them) as well as AL teams.

That shouldn’t be a problem for the Cubs, who have a natural DH in Kyle Schwarber.

A much tougher problem to solve is a financial meeting of the minds between owners and players. With about 40 percent of revenue coming from tickets, concessions and various gate-related cash, the owners are angling for the revenue split. The union is having none of it, calling it a salary cap. They agreed in March to prorated salaries based on games played.

“That the league is trying to take advantage of a global health crisis to get what they’ve failed to achieve in the past ... suggests they know exactly how this will be received,” MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark told The Athletic on Monday.

“None of this is beneficial to the process of finding a way for us to safely get back on the field and resume the 2020 season — which continues to be our sole focus.”

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