The two spring training states, Florida and Arizona, issued a public welcome to Major League Baseball weeks ago.
Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, as far as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is concerned, now are available too.
So where is the sense of urgency to get this sport up and running?
That came to mind again Friday as MLB and the Players Association did not exchange any further economic proposals, according to sources. What began as a soft June 1 deadline to get a return-to-play deal done now is slipping beyond that, and the later that goes, the less likely it is that there will be a July 4 Opening Day.
The union did update the players Friday with a memo that said it was mulling a response to MLB’s sliding-scale proposal for salary cuts, according to The Athletic. The memo characterized that first-pitch proposal as one that “sought additional pay cuts of more than $800M that it contends are necessary to make it economically feasible to play games without fans.”
The memo also said the union “still awaits key documents from MLB that would support the dubious financial distress claims the league has made in its attempt to force the additional givebacks from players.”
To date, MLB has supplied the economic data required under the CBA, according to sources, and does not currently plan to deliver any additional financial information to the union.
Both sides seem intent on using the ticking clock to their advantage, but it’s also possible for them to run out of time. And they didn’t appear to make much progress this past week.
MLB delivered its first-pitch financial proposal of sliding-scale pay reductions Tuesday, and Max Scherzer returned serve on behalf of the union by repeating the company line that there will be no additional negotiations on salary.
Scherzer’s Twitter message was delivered at about 11 p.m. Wednesday. It’s been mostly crickets since then, other than a Scott Boras email (acquired by The Associated Press) urging the players not to “bail out” the owners by accepting any salary reductions or deferrals. While the two sides continue to stay in touch regarding the health/safety protocols, according to sources, the economic situation remained at a stalemate Friday.
MLB’s sliding-scale proposal featured severe pay cuts for the game’s richest players and a much smaller percentage trim for those on the lower end. For example, Mike Trout, who was set to earn $37.6 million this year, would see his already prorated salary whittled down to $5.7 million under MLB’s plan.
As expected, the union was “extremely disappointed” by what it termed “massive” salary reductions. Those feelings soon were relayed by Scherzer, a member of the union’s eight-man executive subcommittee and the only player to comment publicly on the matter.
The Players Association does not intend to further engage MLB on compensation and there was no immediate timetable for a counterproposal on the other subjects.
Counting backward, this isn’t leaving much of a margin to get spring training 2.0 started by mid-June and a season underway by the first week of July. The expectation is that players need three weeks to get ready, the first two for workouts and the third filled with exhibition games.
As of now, MLB’s plan is for an 82-game regular season with an expanded playoff schedule that would include 14 teams. Because the Players Association refuses to relent on pay concessions without getting further financial data from the owners, there has been talk of the union proposing a longer regular season, possibly up to 100 games.
With MLB concerned about a second wave of COVID-19 cases in the fall, getting to the playoffs is the key to any plan, based on the cash bonanza from the TV networks. If the current impasse stretches deeper into June, that could jeopardize the chances of playing all the way to the completion of the World Series.