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The company that makes Louisville Slugger baseball bats went back online last week. For the first time in two months, the factory in Kentucky opened its doors to nearly 200 workers, and began churning out the sticks.

It's a small step. But it's a step.

How will we know that baseball is truly back? Here's how: Things are fixin' to get ugly between players and owners. And it's all about money. As always.

Jeff Passan at ESPN reports that the two sides will spend the next few weeks refusing to budge on money. Then, when the clock ticks down to zero, they'll suddenly agree on everything. When that happens, "the posturing abates, the ugliness will burn off like the morning fog and there will be hope for a deal--for baseball."

So baseball is back. Because the bickering about money is.

The owners have put together a proposal for kicking off a pandemic-shortened season. It would begin in July. (Wouldn't Independence Day be special as Opening Day?) Each team would play only 82 games. And, at least at first, the teams would play in stadiums without fans.

Oh, and every team would play with a designated hitter. Including teams in the National League. (We will pause here as the traditionalists take to their fainting couches.)

There are other details: Instead of 10 teams making the playoffs, 14 teams will. Games will be played in states where allowed. Games will be played against divisional opponents and the occasional regional one. We heard one report that teams will make the most use of buses this year, instead of chartered flights. No Yankees-Dodgers this year. And the rosters would be expanded.

All those are minor concerns. The fight will be about money.

The owners have proposed a 50-50 split of the revenues from the shortened season. The players see that as a salary cap and want nothing to do with it.

And in the middle of it all, as the players' union and owner reps shake out the money, and decide who will get what percentage, and what the TV revenue will look like for smaller markets, and whether local money should be shared, and how else to divvy up the pot, comes a voice. From a name you might not recognize: Sean Doolittle.

He's a pitcher for the World Series champions Washington Nationals. He began raising questions about a revived season early last week. He released his questions, obviously, on Twitter.

But the reason so many people in the sports world began repeating his questions is because he linked every one with a story from a legit news source. He wants answers. As do most people:

"Bear with me," Sean Doolittle starts, "but it feels like we've zoomed past the most important aspect of any MLB restart plan: health protections for players, families, staff, stadium workers and the workforce it would require to resume a season. Here are some things I'll be looking for in the proposal . . . ."

Then he swung for the fences.

• This is a new virus, so there is much we don't know. Especially about long-term effects.

• How will stadiums and clubhouses be modified to prevent spread?

• How frequently will players and others be tested to keep the risk as low as possible?

• Baseball can't have a season without hotel and transportation workers. Is MLB going to pay for their tests/protection?

• Will MLB pay for any problems that come up later, even in retirement, if somebody is harmed by covid-19 by playing games this year?

• And what is the protocol if a player or staff member gets the virus?

That last one is a doozy. If a catcher tests positive an hour before a game, is the whole team quarantined for two weeks? How does that affect the schedule? What if he played the night before? Should all of last night's opponents be tested again? And these are just the questions that we can ask now. Stay tuned to see if the coming days bring more.

Everybody wants baseball back. Every American wants to return to normal and hear the crack of those Louisville Sluggers and see their team win the division and see playoff baseball in October, or November even. But Sean Doolittle's questions need answering, too.

Here's another:

Will the fight over money be the easy part?

Editorial on 05/17/2020

Print Headline: Dr. Doolittle

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