The Major League Baseball Players Association on Thursday reaffirmed their desire to get a 2020 season started amid the coronavirus pandemic, but once again rejected the league’s demands for further financial concessions.
Earlier this week, MLB threatened to limit a potential 2020 season to around 50 games, unless the players agree to further pay cuts beyond those already negotiated and agreed upon. That’s far short of the various proposals that have come out during these negotiations, which have called for between 82 and 114 games.
Players agreed back in March to accept a prorated portion of their contractual salaries, based on the number of games played in the shortened season, and they want the league to honor that deal. Cutting dozens more games off the schedule would therefore further reduce the amount the players can earn, without technically changing the per-game amount. Team owners say they will lose money for each game played at full prorated player salaries, though they refuse to provide any documentation to prove those claims.
The two sides held a conference call on Thursday. Afterward, players union Executive Director Tony Clark released the following statement:
“In this time of unprecedented suffering at home and abroad, Players want nothing more than to get back to work and provide baseball fans with the game we all love. But we cannot do this alone.
Earlier this week, Major League Baseball communicated its intention to schedule a dramatically shortened 2020 season unless Players negotiate salary concessions. The concessions being sought are in addition to billions in Player salary reductions that have already been agreed upon.
This threat came in response to an Association proposal aimed at charting a path forward. Among other things, Players proposed more games, two years of expanded playoffs, salary deferrals in the event of a 2020 playoff cancellation, and the exploration of additional jewel events and broadcast enhancements aimed at creatively bringing our Players to the fans while simultaneously increasing the value of our product. Rather than engage, the league replied it will shorten the season unless Players agree to further salary reductions.
Earlier today we held a conference call of the Association’s Executive Board and several other MLBPA Player leaders. The overwhelming consensus of the Board is that Players are ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions that could affect the health and safety of not just themselves, but their families as well. The league’s demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected.
Important work remains to be done in order to safely resume the season. We stand ready to complete that work and look forward to getting back on the field.”
The latest proposal from the players, which they made on Sunday, featured a schedule of 114 games and an expanded postseason. It also included the concession of deferring some salary if a second wave of the virus cancels the playoffs in October. However, the league rejected the offer on Wednesday and refused to counter it, instead suggesting they would significantly shorten the season unless the players agree to less than their full prorated per-game salaries.
The two sides are still far apart and holding firm in their stances, but they’ll have to come together soon to have any chance of getting a season started. In order to realistically fit in 82 games (without extending into November, which neither side seems to want), spring training would need to resume as soon as possible in June so that real games could begin in early July.
Meanwhile, other major pro sports have made far more progress in negotiations to get their own leagues back in action. The NBA will get going on July 31, the NHL is figuring out the details of its own expanded playoff system, and MLS players ratified a new collective bargaining agreement with revised financial terms that pave the way for a resumption of play.