Will there be baseball games at Fenway Park this summer? If MLB owners and players fail to come to an agreement on the 2020 season, “It’s going to turn off a lot of people from this great sport that we love,” says NESN broadcaster Jerry Remy. AP file photo

I lied to you.

Two weeks ago, I wrote that Major League Baseball was entering its most important week. League owners and officials had presented the start of their proposal to bring baseball back this year, and we were waiting for the players union to respond.

We’re still waiting.

The past week saw the first real reported progress in the discussions, as the two sides exchanged ideas on safety protocols. Reports say the dialogue was good enough that MLB officials are finally ready to make their economic proposal to the players.

Meaning this will be the most important week of the year for baseball.

To review: baseball’s initial proposal came two weeks ago, but did not have any proposal concerning additional reduction in player salaries. The bulk of that initial proposal was a 67-page recommendation of safety protocols under which the game would resume.

It seemed onerous at first, covering everything from how long balls should stay in play (not very long) to what players should do away from the park (not very much.). Yet, with time to digest the proposal, most observers think it could become a blueprint for other leagues as they look to resume action.

Which is exactly what other leagues are doing. The NHL is now working out details of an amended playoff format, with remaining teams gathering in two locations to battle for the Stanley Cup. The NBA is looking at one location, reportedly Disney World in Orlando, Florida, to resume its season and playoffs. As I’ve said all along, those league’s return to action adds pressure on baseball to get back on the field. And now that common ground on safety issues is being reached, there is no reason it can’t happen.

If it doesn’t happen, it will be because of money. And that would be a bad look for a game that cannot appear out of touch with the country.

“I’m sure hockey’s going to come back, and I’m sure basketball’s going to come back to have their playoffs,” NESN’s Jerry Remy told me on a recent podcast we host together. “If baseball doesn’t come back, they’re going to look just awful. And baseball’s got a problem now anyway. They’ve got a problem with young people. If they don’t come back they’re going to have a major problem.

“It’s not going to be pretty. It’s going to turn off a lot of people from this great sport that we love.”

This, coming from a man who has been around the game for five decades.

The very fact that money could stand in the way of the sport’s return speaks to the level of distrust that has built between players and owners. It’s been building in recent years and was expected to come to a head after next season, when the sport’s collective bargaining agreement must be renewed.

The pandemic sped up that timetable. Which is why the two sides are cautiously discussing how to return, and who should shoulder the economic burden of lost revenues.

In an ideal world the sides would use this negotiation to get a new CBA done that would ensure labor peace for the next few years. But, as we all know, this is not an ideal world we are living in. There just isn’t time to open up discussions to that scale.

So the conversations will surround a truncated season, to be played in empty stadiums. Hopefully in July. To make that happen an agreement must be reached soon.

Meaning this will be the most important week facing baseball in 2020.

I think.

Tom Caron is a studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on NESN. His column runs on Tuesdays in the Portland Press Herald.

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