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Elephant Rumblings: MLB plans to impose 60-game season starting July 24

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An official Rawlings Major League Baseball for the 2020 Major League Baseball season. Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

Good morning, Athletics Nation!

Major League Baseball is finally coming in 2020, if the coronavirus pandemic allows.

With the owners and players unable to come to an agreement on financial terms for a shortened season this summer, the league is exercising its right to impose one on its own, at full prorated player salaries. The plan calls for 60 games, starting July 24, reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

In the final round of negotiations over the last several days, the owners offered 60 games and the players countered with 70. The league insisted that 60 was the highest it could go and offered some small extra concessions to sweeten the pot, but the players overwhelmingly rejected that smaller offer. The owners then unanimously voted to move forward with a season anyway — and despite their oft-stated desire for as few unprofitable fan-less games as possible, they kept it at that same 60 games rather than cutting it down even further.

“MLB owners did the right thing by giving players their 60 games rather than punishing them for the rejection. Hear from players who were pleased MLB took the high road in the end on this issue. Of course, by giving them the full 60, it may also blunt a grievance, to a degree,” said insider Jon Heyman.

There’s still one small hurdle to get over before the wheels officially begin turning. MLB’s statement announcing the decision requested two bits of information from the players union:

In order to produce a schedule with a specific number of games, we are asking that the Players Association provide to us by 5:00 p.m. (ET) tomorrow [Tue] with two pieces of information. The first is whether players will be able to report to camp within seven days (by July 1st). The second is whether the Players Association will agree on the Operating Manual which contains the health and safety protocols necessary to give us the best opportunity to conduct and complete our regular season and Postseason.

The players are tentatively expected to cooperate with these two action items and lock in the league’s plan, reports Jeff Passan of ESPN. The longer they take to agree, the less time there will be to play, and thus the fewer games can fit on the calendar.

While the length of the imposed season is similar to that in recent discussions, the two sides’ inability to come to an actual deal means that some other publicly floated ideas won’t be included. That means no expanded postseason and no advertising on jerseys, reports Passan, though the universal DH could still be used in 2020 (but not 2021) as part of a pitcher safety protocol.

We haven’t quite crossed the finish line yet, but this is the closest we’ve gotten to officially moving forward with a 2020 season. The process could still hit another last-minute snag and delay further, or, even worse, the unflattened curve of the pandemic could scuttle any plans if it leads to more shutdowns. But for now, the goal is for players to report to “spring” training by July 1 and get the season going three weeks later.

A’s Coverage:

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Best of Twitter:

Bauer hits the nail on the head

“We’re in surprise contention at 2-0, so let’s take this opportunity and go all-in!”

Fair question

More on this news coming in a full story later today