Red Sox legend Dennis Eckersley puts 50/50 odds on MLB returning in 2020

Former Boston Red Sox pitcher Dennis Eckersley says his confidence meter is at 50 percent when it comes to baseball returning this year.

Memorial Day weekend is approaching and we still don’t have baseball back in our lives. With every passing day the chances of Major League Baseball returning to action appear to dwindle further out of reach. What are the odds that we’ll see our beloved Boston Red Sox on the field this year? Call it a coin flip.

That’s how Dennis Eckersley sees it anyway. The former Red Sox pitcher and current NESN analyst joined Tom Caron on an episode of “At home with TC” to discuss when baseball could return to action.

“50, right? I’m just… 50,” Eckersley responded when TC asked where the fate of the season rates on his confidence meter. “I can’t go either way because if you told me they’re not playing, I’d go ‘eh.’ You know, but if you told me they would, I’d go ‘eh.’ Whatever.”

There’s too much money at stake for MLB to not make every effort to begin the season but several hurdles remain in the way. The owners want the players to take an additional pay cut in addition to the prorated salaries they already agreed to and the MLBPA naturally balked at that request. The 67-page safety protocol document the league proposed as a necessity in order to resume games outlines an extremely restrictive environment that almost seems unfeasible.

We can’t start the season until both sides are on the same page in terms of money and safety. Neither side wants to risk losing an entire season but they are running out of time to come to an agreement.

Eckersley predicts a June 1 deadline for when MLB needs to make a decision about the upcoming season. That’s less than two weeks away, which seems optimistic considering the owners and players both seem entrenched on their conflicting viewpoints.

It’s hard to see how they can wait much longer though. Players will need at least a few weeks of spring training to prepare. The weekend of July 4 has been discussed as a potential target for Opening Day and to achieve that goal the players will need to report to camp by early June.

If the season is delayed until August then how do they expect to squeeze in even half a season? Extending the schedule later so that the playoffs spill into November seems unlikely. Even if they used neutral site locations in warm weather cities and domes, the threat of a second wave of COVID-19 that many experts fear is coming later this year limits how far they can extend the season. Nobody wants to start the season if a second wave might interrupt it or force them to cancel the postseason.

We’re starting to see some progress in terms of the world getting back to something resembling normalcy. Some states are slowly starting to reopen in phases. We’ve seen baseball and soccer return in other countries overseas. NASCAR and golf are returning while the NFL is currently planning to begin their season on time. The NBA and NHL are still trying to find ways to salvage the remainder of their interrupted seasons.

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It would be a bad look for MLB if the other major sports figure out a way to resume action sometime this year but baseball season gets canceled over a financial dispute. That puts a lot of pressure on the league to strike a deal with the players. There’s too much on the line for both sides to accept failure but they are running out of time.