With baseball at risk of losing its entire season, owners and players are at a standstill, still, over money.
MLB rejected the Players Association’s proposal for a 114-game season on Wednesday, sources said, but did not make its own suggestions. Among the league’s problems with what the union sought: A 114-game season would mean staging the playoffs in November, which MLB wants to avoid out of fears of a second wave of COVID-19 outbreaks.
Further, MLB told the union that an 82-game season, as the league proposed last week, is no longer possible.
“You confirmed for us on Sunday that players are unified in their view that they will not accept less than 100% of their prorated salaries, and we have no choice but to accept that representation,” deputy commissioner Dan Halem wrote in a letter — released by The Associated Press — to chief union negotiator Bruce Meyer.
“Nonetheless, the commissioner is committed to playing baseball in 2020,” Halem added. “He has started discussions with ownership about staging a shorter season without fans.”
The Players Association was not discouraged by Wednesday’s developments, however, and still believes a deal to save the season will happen, a person familiar with the discussions said. And it wasn’t worried about commissioner Rob Manfred unilaterally deciding on a much shorter season because the league needs the union’s cooperation to expand the playoffs, which would be a big money-maker.
The possibility of the Manfred-ordered season of 50 to 60 games is not a formal proposal sitting in front of the union. It is more of a loose threat, something MLB says it is willing to do in the absence of an agreement with the players.
The sides are increasingly short on time, and the latest move of MLB telling the PA no on 114 games continues the slow pace of the negotiations.
The union officially made its pitch — which included full prorated salaries — on Sunday. That was a “nonstarter,” Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, but MLB still took three days to officially decline.
“There is not enough there to even get into a discussion about in terms of detail,” Kendrick said Tuesday. “The 114 games if you look at it would take baseball literally into the month of December. We all need to not forget that part of what has been in the air and much discussion from the player side as well as the owner side is about the health crisis that we’ve all been facing. We’re all fearful that the virus could return at a very aggressive level later this year.”
MLB’s hope has been to have Opening Day in early July, but Kendrick noted the obvious: Unless there is a restart agreement within the next week or so, early July isn’t feasible. The plan is to have a three-week spring training before the regular season.
The players want full prorated pay for as many games as possible. The owners say that could mean losses too significant for them to accept. Last week, MLB proposed an 82-game season with a sliding scale of salary cuts (which would result in $800 million in givebacks), but the union said no.
“Every single team will have enormous losses,” Kendrick said. “The question is how great will our losses be?”
Cubs owner Tom Ricketts pushed the same idea in an interview with ESPN on Tuesday, claiming that most owners don’t make money out of their team.
“There is a perception that we hoard cash and we take money out and it's all sitting in a pile we've collected over the years,” Ricketts said. “Well, it isn't. Because no one anticipated a
pandemic. No one expects to have to draw down on the reserves from the past. Every team has to figure out a way to plug the hole.”