MLB moved closer to a 2020 season with Monday’s machinations by the MLB Players Association and the commissioner’s office. After the union’s executive board voted 33-5 not to accept the owners’ latest offer, MLB announced that it would exercise the power it was granted in March to unilaterally set a schedule.
In a sign of the enmity between the sides, baseball’s announcement took a swipe at the players. It listed the “significant benefits” the union turned down, such as $ 25 million in postseason cash and players being allowed to keep about 20 percent of the $ 170 million salary advance baseball gave them after spring training was suspended in March because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The union needs to tell MLB by close of business Tuesday whether players a.) Can report for training camps by July 1 and b.) Will agree to the lengthy health and safety protocols that were proposed during negotiations. The MLBPA, in its announcement, said it anticipated finalizing protocols “in the coming days.” If they’re installed, they’ll be severely tested; more than three dozen MLB players and staffers reportedly have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent weeks.
More hardball is to be played with the collective bargaining agreement set to expire after the 2021 season.
MLB return-to-play highlights
A quick look at some of the effects of the union’s vote and MLB’s announcement.
A two-month season. Commissioner Rob Manfred reportedly will set the schedule at 60 games, a figure observers believe was about what MLB wanted all along. The season reportedly will begin in late July and end on the regularly scheduled Sept. 27. That will prevent disruption of the playoff schedule and not endanger any payments from broadcast partners Fox and Turner.
No expanded playoffs. The postseason field will remain at 10 rather than the proposed 16. A 10-team field will ensure a late-October finish to the World Series and ease concerns over baseball being played during a possible fall breakout of the virus.
The DH in both leagues for 2020, at least. That change is baked into the safety protocols. MLB offered not to implement a universal DH in 2021 if there is no 2020 season, an attempt to sweeten the offer the players rejected Monday.
MLB return-to-play questions
A quick look at key questions after the union’s vote and MLB’s announcement.
How will the schedule look? The most expected scenario is a schedule heavy on division games and interleague matchups against corresponding divisions (i.e., East vs. East). That will help to ease team travel, which is a safety consideration, and make division races fairer.
How much money will the players make? They’ll be paid their 2020 salaries on a pro rata basis, which for a 60-game schedule would mean about 37 percent of their full salaries. MLB owners balked at prorated pay for a longer season, citing the prospect of no paying spectators this season.
Can the players still file a grievance against the owners? Yes. The union had to weigh giving up that leverage. Owners remain upset that the MLBPA came to them with a counteroffer after Manfred made it appear as if he and MLBPA executive director Tony Clark had hashed out the “framework” of a deal last week. Expect both sides to claim bad faith if the players go through with a grievance.