After it rejected an MLB plan for a 72-game season with reduced salaries, expanded playoffs, a July 14 season launch and a Sept. 27 end, the players union told MLB to just order a return to work, along the lines of what the pair agreed to in March when the COVID-19 pandemic caused a season shutdown.
The request from the MLB Players Association came less than a day after the latest MLB offer, itself a counteroffer to the most recent offer from the players union, calling for full prorated salaries over a 114-game season that would extend well into November. With the two sides slowly inching toward some sort of resolution, the slow pace of the negotiations–done entirely via Zoom meetings and harshly worded letters–was recognized to be something in MLB’s favor: the longer it took to reach a season game plan, the shorter the season would be. Here’s the statement from the players:
Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark today released the following statement: pic.twitter.com/d1p3Oj4K70
— MLBPA Communications (@MLBPA_News) June 13, 2020
And here’s the MLB response:
The reference to “negotiate in good faith” is likely to be important in coming days. pic.twitter.com/aMnmBANQ5w
— Ballpark Digest (@ballparkdigest) June 14, 2020
The widely held assumption is that Manfred and MLB owners believe that a 50-game season would conform to a March agreement between players and owners that called for no salary cuts this season, and that Manfred has the power to implement that season without a final agreement with players after MLB has made good-faith efforts to launch the 2020 campaign. MLB seeks to end the season with a traditional timeline in order to avoid a potential second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic expected by experts in November and December, while the players don’t see a potential second wave as a valid threat to a November postseason.
In a worst-case scenario, Manfred would call for a 50-54 game season ending Sept. 27, with full prorated salaries, and the players union would refuse to report, claiming that MLB did not make a good-faith effort to come to an agreement. They would conceivably claim a loss of salaries around $1 billion as well. At that point, MLB would likely accuse the players of not acting in good faith to launch 2020 play. Things are already tense between the two sides; the worst-case scenario would raise that level of tension.
But a best-case scenario has MLB adding some games (essentially, upping its financing commitment to players) and the players accepting the offer. But no one really knows how this will play out as of now.
What happens in 2020 will likely affect the 2021 season: it would be amazing if the 2021 season ends up starting with full ballparks and a long list of sponsors and advertisers. With cases rising in many states (Arizona, Texas and Florida) and experts warning you won’t see large venues cleared for events until 2021, it would be very surprising if MLB didn’t ask the players for some sort of accommodation. And that will come in the context of both sides bracing for negotiations on the next CBA, as the current one expires on Dec. 21, 2021.
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