Though it was already considered fait accompli, Major League Baseball has formally rejected the players’ proposal for a 114-game season at full prorated pay. Reports from earlier in the week indicated that the owners would be amenable to paying players at their full per-game rate if the season was shortened to around 50 games, which would mean a regular season of about two months.
MLB rejected the union’s proposal for a 114-game season and said it would not send a counter, sources tell The Athletic. The league said it has started talks with owners about playing a shorter season without fans, and that it is ready to discuss additional ideas with the union.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) June 3, 2020
This all seems pretty transparent from the league’s side, with owners attempting to capitalize on postseason TV revenue while limiting the amount of money they spend on payroll. It’s being spun as a way to avoid a second wave of COVID-19, hence the reluctance to extend the season beyond its traditional schedule. Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick went so far as to say the league will not approve any plan that includes baseball in November.
Arizona Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick told @BurnsAndGambo the league will not approve any plan with baseball in November — including the union’s 114-game plan with a regular season that ends Oct. 31. The March agreement offered “the possibility” of games beyond normal schedule. pic.twitter.com/QSnxmvix1y
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) June 2, 2020
Hold on, let’s back this truck up for a quick second. The owners’ initial proposal was reportedly for an 82-game season beginning on July 4, which would have concluded in late September or early October. Then they’d have an expanded playoff format featuring an additional round of play, which, even if we’re just talking about play-in games, could easily push the postseason into November.
While I’m willing to admit that I don’t have full transparency into the details of their plan, it sure feels as though the owners are talking out of both sides of their mouths. Not that anyone should have expected otherwise. Tom Ricketts recently called the revenue losses “biblical” in scope and essentially said players would have to take pay cuts because no external options exist for the Cubs and other teams to liquidate assets for cash flow, yet he also touted the team’s $750 million in capital investment in Wrigley Field.
What it all comes down to is that the league may simply present a take-it-or-leave-it offer of 50-ish games — or even as few as 42, possibly a PR-friendly nod to Jackie Robinson — pursuant to commissioner Rob Manfred’s unilateral power. The players can still reject such a proposal under their March agreement, which says the league must make the “best efforts to play as many games as possible,” but the clock is ticking and they may feel pressed to close a deal soon.
Increasing the perceived pressure on baseball is the growing list of other sports with plans to get back in action, one that now includes the NBA. Of course, the players actually seem to like and trust the commissioner in that league, a decided difference from MLB’s labor relationship. I’d like to think the MLBPA can get this thing pushed closer to half a season of games with prorated salaries, so let’s hope the two sides can indeed have a little more productive dialogue over the next few days.