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Breaking Down MLB Executives Eyeing A July Start For The Season

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And now it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Or is it? Baseball might be America's national pastime. Should it be an American priority? Major League execs want a modified season to start in July. Some players say, not so fast. Howard Bryant of ESPN joins us. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott. How are you?

SIMON: I'm fine, thank you. The governor of Illinois, J.B. Pritzker, has said, quote, "the people of the United States deserve to get their pastime back." If the season starts July 4, which is the date we've seen floated, what would it be like?

BRYANT: Well, it would be a split season. It would be a partial season, maybe even similar to the 1981 season that was postponed by the strike. And I guess that you would try to squeeze in as many games as you could. And then if you could do that by July 4 to start the season, you could have a half season, as they have done in the past. And you could probably have a full postseason and still probably end the season on time, so you would be able to start the next season on time. And then you would also be able to accommodate the types of weather that potential World Series teams would be in.

It's very ambitious, and I think that what you're seeing here - in addition to Governor Pritzker, you're also see in Randy Levine from the Yankees referring to it as a patriotic duty on the part of the players. You're hearing the pressure to get on with it from the part of the owners, and there is serious pushback on the part of the players. It's very obvious that the baseball powers that be, such as super agent Scott Boras, have decided that the baseball lane is going to be America's healer, just like we've seen in the past. However, this pandemic is not the same as trying to keep people's spirits up during a war. This is one of those issues where the players themselves are putting their health and safety at risk just by hopping on the field. And so this is something that's going to be a very difficult challenge to convince the players that it's their civic and patriotic duty to put themselves in harm's way.

SIMON: I mean, because of what we know so far, there would be daily medical tests. There would be no fans, essentially - certainly no fans in personal attendance. Because there are, let's say, only half number of games, there would be only about half the pay. Blake Snell of the Tampa Bay Rays said, quote, "The risk is way the hell higher, and the amount of money I'm making is way lower. Why would I think about doing that?" Now, to the public, especially so many people who've lost their jobs, others who've taken pay cuts, does that just sound like pouting from a millionaire athlete?

BRYANT: Well, it doesn't sound great. And I think that the way that it came out certainly didn't sound very beneficial to the players. It made the players look completely entitled. But at the same time, I don't think the core of his message is wrong and simply because the issue that we're having here is supposedly one of health and safety. It's not one of money, necessarily. It's supposed to be about whether or not you have enough - you know, do you have ample evidence and ample protections for the players? And if that answer is no, then you are essentially choosing profits over safety.

And I think that's been the big issue. And you can feel the pressure that the players are starting to feel. They're not soldiers. They're not doctors. They're not on the frontlines in this until...

SIMON: Yeah, they're entertainers. I mean - you know?

BRYANT: Yeah, they're entertainers. I think...

SIMON: Broadway, obviously, is going to be closed in September.

BRYANT: Yep. And I think the real danger here, Scott, once again is making it sound as though because they're rich, they have no rights and because they're rich, they're not supposed to care about health and safety and their families and everything else and because they're rich, they have no opportunity to say anything. And so it sounded bad on the part of Blake Snell. But on the other hand, if we really listen to what he's trying to say, he's saying very similar things to what we're all saying about where we are right now.

SIMON: Howard Bryant of ESPN, thanks so much for being with us.

BRYANT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Hey, thanks for reading.
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