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Final pitch could be closer to Christmas than Halloween

NEW YORK — If the final pitch of the 2020 baseball season comes closer to Christmas than Halloween, that’s fine with the players.

Major League Baseball owners ratified a 17-page agreement with the union on Friday in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, with players willing to extend the season as long as needed to cover as close to a full schedule as possible.

Even if it involves neutral sites in warm-weather cities and domes. Even if it involves playing in empty ballparks. Even if it involves lots of day-night doubleheaders.

And if it means expanding the playoffs from 10 teams, fine.

“Players want to play. That’s what we do,” said union head Tony Clark, a former All-Star first baseman. “Being able to get back on the field and being able to play, even if that means their fans are watching at home, but being able to play for their fans is something they’ve all expressed a desire and an interest to do, and to do so as soon as possible.”

The deal provides for $170 million in advances from salaries that total more than $4 billion and guarantees service time to players even if no games are played this year. That means Mookie Betts, George Springer, Marcus Stroman, Trevor Bauer and J.T. Realmuto remain on track for free agency next offseason.

This season was to start Thursday and Game 7 of the World Series was on track to be Oct. 28. With opening day postponed until mid-May at the earliest, the final pitch could come as Frosty the Snowman starts popping up. The sides discussed a regular season extending into October and a postseason in November.

“We would play as long as we possibly could. Obviously, the weather becomes a challenge the later you get in the calendar year,” Clark said. “But we would do our best to play as many games as possible regardless of when we start.”

A bigger playoff field will be considered.

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