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Baseball

🎾 Baby come back

June 11, 2020
TIM CLAYTON/GETTY IMAGES
TIM CLAYTON/GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: Like we said, sports are coming back...but not all sports...yet! This week has seen some positive steps forward, a few setbacks and yet another proposal to salvage the baseball season (spoiler alert: it’s not looking promising).

Start with the good news: Will do. The MLS confirmed their plans for a tournament to start the season. The month-long “MLS Is Back” tournament, clearly inspired by the Backstreet Boys, will begin on July 8th in Orlando, Florida, and will feature all 26 teams. The winning team will earn a 2021 CONCACAF Champions League berth, and the regular season will continue with a revised schedule that is TBA.

And the setbacks?: Speaking of golf, the LPGA has lost one of its five majors. The Evian Championship, held annually in France and originally set to start on August 6th, has been canceled, with officials citing travel concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic as the main reason.

  • The US Open (the tennis one, not golf) is considering moving the tournament from NYC to California or Florida (even though Florida’s COVID-19 numbers are rising) and most Canadian fall semester varsity sports have been canceled. Meanwhile, the NCAA is trying to adapt.

Okay, I’m ready. Tell me about the MLB: Oh boy. In an attempt to start the 2020 season, the MLB and the MLB Players Association (MLBPA) have been lobbing proposals and counter-proposals back and forth for the last month with little success.

  • While back in the MLBPA’s court (sorry for the mixed sports metaphors), on Tuesday they proposed an 89-game regular season, an expanded 16-team postseason and “broadcast enhancements,” including having players mic’d up during games. Are you not entertained?
     
  • But the issue is, and always has been, the players’ salaries. The players are proposing prorated salaries, but the teams say they don’t have the money (each game without fans can lose a team about $640,000). Moral of the story: we don't feel good about this counter-counter-counter-proposal’s chances.

🏀 Step by step

June 04, 2020
SCOTT TAETSCH/GETTY IMAGES
SCOTT TAETSCH/GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: Little by little, some of our favorite sports are returning to action. Unfortunately, some of them are heading in the other direction, too.

What’s coming back?: Basketball is oh so close. The NBA Board of Governors is voting on the league’s return-to-play plan today, and, great news, it’s looking really good! The plan will have the top 22 teams (based on their shortened regular season records) play eight games to determine playoff seeding before starting the postseason.

  • The NBA is aiming for a July 31st start date, but with a mini-seeding tournament ahead of full playoffs, it’s likely the season will head well into the fall. The league’s proposed timeline shows the latest possible date of the NBA’s final game as October 12th. For reference, the season started on October 22nd last year.

Sweet! Anything else?: The WNBA is continuing their work on a localized return-to-play plan by scouting “hub” venues. On the shortlist are the MGM Resorts in Las Vegas and the IMG Academy in Florida. We like the progress, but we’d really like a start date.

That’s it?: Nope. The MLS is headed back too! Yesterday the league reached a new labor deal with the players association, so with money issues out of the way, the league can get to work on their plan: a five-week tournament for all 26 teams at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando’s Disney World (which they’ll share with the NBA because that place is ginormous) that would likely mirror the NWSL’s tournament.

What’s not coming back?: Oh, MLB. These guys cannot agree on a return-to-play plan. The league owners rejected the players’ counter proposal for a 114-game regular season and told the players union they don’t plan to counter (enough counters or what?). Now, the league’s Fourth of July start date is looking like a pipe dream.

  • Over in Japan, the Nippon Professional Baseball league is in jeopardy after two players from the Yomiuri Giants tested positive for COVID-19. The league, which is the second-biggest baseball league in the world, canceled an exhibition game due to the positive cases, which came just two weeks ahead of June 19th’s Opening Day. Not good.

🎾🏀 Will they or won't they?

June 01, 2020
SETH WENIG/AP
SETH WENIG/AP

The GIST: As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, we’re still dealing with a lot of ifs, buts, and maybes about sports that should be starting up again soon.

Tennis: We’re about two months away from the projected August 3rd restart of the official WTA and ATP seasons, but the first scheduled Grand Slam event — the US Open, which is set to start on August 31st — is still a big question mark, with the US Tennis Association (USTA) hoping to make a yay or nay call by the end of June.

  • If the US Open does get the go-ahead, they have a plan! The USTA is looking at chartering flights from hub cities around the world, using fewer on-court officials, and limiting players’ entourages. Also, the ball kids will be adults (and yes, we have thought of applying) and there may even be some fans.

MLB: What a mess. After the MLB presented a pretty disgraceful proposal to the MLB Players’ Association (MLBPA) last week, the MLBPA is now looking to submit a counterproposal that would suggest 114 games (the league proposed 82, while a “normal” regular season generally has 162) and prorated salaries. It’s highly unlikely that the MLB will go for it, so we’re still quite a few steps away from mediation.

  • Time is running short, though. The league has been planning to start the season over the Fourth of July weekend, with the original hope that a deal would be met by today (LOL not happening). With all the unknowns, some team owners are now saying they’re willing to call off the entire season. Now that’s glass-half-empty talk.

Basketball: The WNBA still hasn’t made any official statement on the 2020 season since it was indefinitely postponed on April 3rd (we’re getting so impatient!), but rumor has it they might be considering a bubble scenario similar to the NBA. Just tell us something...anything...already!

  • Speaking of the NBA, their bubble plan is on the bubble. The Board of Governors is set to vote this week on the format of the Disney World plan, which should *knock on wood* start July 31st. Commissioner Adam Silver is apparently proposing a 22-team scenario (with a 20-team return also on the table), but it’s pretty certain that not all 30 teams will return to play.

🏒🏀🏈 Guess who’s (maybe) back, (maybe) back again?

May 28, 2020
JAMIE SABAU/NHLI VIA GETTY IMAGES
JAMIE SABAU/NHLI VIA GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: The NHL is the first pro league in North America to give us hope a real, detailed plan for returning to play. Meanwhile, the MLB is disrespecting its players, the NFL is wearing rose-colored glasses and the NBA is stringing us along. Does this situation remind you of a rom-com or what?

LOL it does. So, what’s the NHL’s plan?: Basically exactly what we reported on Monday (we’re so ahead of the times!). On Tuesday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the regular season is over and 24 teams will play in an unusual Stanley Cup playoff scenario. No word on when (or if) it will start, but the league has promised thorough safety and testing measures when it does.

  • Bettman also confirmed the league will use two hub cities (one for each conference) with seven US cities and three Canadian cities in contention to host. Due to international travel restrictions, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly all but confirmed they’ll likely play in the US, but that hasn’t stopped the Alberta government from trying to host in Edmonton. Shoot your shot!

Any other NHL news?: With the regular season officially over, the end-of-season awards can be decided! The Art Ross Trophy, which is won by the player with the most points (one point for each goal and assist), will go to Edmonton Oiler Leon Draisaitl (pronounced DRY-SIGH-TULL), after he put up 110 points in just 71 games. Impressive.

  • New (again) dad Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruin David Pastrnak will share the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy for most goals after they each tallied 48.
     
  • And the Boston Bruins are the Presidents’ Trophy winners after “finishing the season” (quotes because did they really though?) with the most points (two points for a win, one point for an overtime loss).

So what’s up with the MLB?: On Tuesday, they submitted their official return-to-play proposal to the MLB Players Association (MLBPA), and the MLBPA is having none of it. The MLB proposed some pretty drastic cost-cutting measures that would dramatically decrease players’ salaries.

  • Sure, these guys already make a ton of money and we get that everyone has to make some sacrifices nowadays, but the league may have taken this one too far. They’re suggesting a paycut of anywhere between 47 and 77 percent to players’ salaries, depending on their original salary amount.

Where’s the NBA at?: Let’s pop them under the TBD column. There was talk that the Disney World plan could be finalized during tomorrow’s weekly Board of Governors meeting, but it’s looking like we might need to wait a little longer for confirmation. And there are new reports that play could start up in late July, but no one’s confirming anything.

  • NBA commissioner Adam Silver said he’d have an answer for us by June 1st, so be sure to check in with us again on Monday.

Any other comeback plans?: The NFL still has time before September kickoff, but they’re planning on having fans in the stands by then. Uh, we’ll see how that one goes. The WNBA has finalized their rosters, the CFL has given the go-ahead for all teams to open practice facilities, and MLS is letting their players practice again...but only if they want.

🏒🎾 So tell me what you want, what you really, really want

May 21, 2020
ASSOCIATED PRESS
ASSOCIATED PRESS

The GIST: There has been a lot of talk over the past few months about the leagues and teams working hard to get their players back in action, which makes us think: what do the players (really, really) want?

NHL: According to Nashville Predator Matt Duchene, most NHLers just want to stay healthy. In an interview this week, Duchene was adamant that the business side of the game isn’t more important than the health and safety of its players, a sentiment that seems to be felt across the board. Preach, baby.

  • Duchene is also hopeful for a traditional playoff format, saying, “You don’t want to have a COVID Cup,” alluding to the idea that the team who wins this season’s Stanley Cup — if the season can’t be played out in full — will forever have an asterisk beside it. He’s totally right: nobody likes an asterisk.

MLB: The league has come out with a 67-page health and safety “return to play” rulebook, and according to Colorado Rockies outfielder and four-time All-Star Charlie Blackmon, he and his fellow players want to get back on the diamond and are ready to follow those rules. He argues that America needs baseball in the summer (not, not true) and he’s confident that the MLB will do the right thing.

  • Blackmon’s exact words were: “I think I can trust our guys...I think we can be trusted not to go to the mall and lick other people's faces.” We guess they’re lucky Brad Marchand doesn’t play baseball.

WTA: Doing her best Kevin McCallister impression, Canadian tennis doubles phenom Gabriela Dabrowski said in an interview this week that she’s not afraid of contracting the virus, saying, “I don’t live my life in fear,” but doesn’t want to put her fellow tennis players at risk. She’s happy to wait until the WTA gives the all-clear to get back in the game. Respect.

EPL: The English Premier League’s (EPL) “Project Restart” has at least one vocal opponent: Watford FC captain Troy Deeney. He decided that he wouldn’t be practicing with his team, saying, “I don’t want to put my son in danger,” referencing his five-month-old who has breathing problems. Very, very fair.

  • And Deeney’s a trendsetter. This week, the EPL conducted 750 COVID-19 tests and six tests came back positive, including three from Watford. Now some of Deeney’s teammates are skipping practice too, and if Watford can’t field enough players, it could halt the EPL’s entire plan.