The MLB Players Association released a statement Thursday evening saying that its executive board and more than 100 players talked via conference call and recommitted to wanting to play this year. Importantly, though, not under the key demand of owners that they take a pay cut from their prorated salaries for games played.
“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,” executive director Tony Clark said in a statement. “The league’s demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected.”
On Wednesday, MLB spurned a union proposal delivered Sunday that namely called for a 114-game season (MLB had proposed 82) and full prorated pay (MLB asked for major concessions with a sliding scale that would particularly impact the highest-paid players).
At the Sunday meeting, MLB told the union of a concept to implement a season of roughly 48-54 games with full prorated pay. MLB believes the sides’ March 26 agreement empowers commissioner Rob Manfred with the power to decide scheduling and a number of games as long as key economic and health/safety issues have been considered by the league. The union is against such a schedule and could try a variety of tactics to block the implementation, such as refusing to accept a key national TV money maker for the owners — the expansion of the playoffs.
“Earlier this week, Major League Baseball communicated its intention to schedule a dramatically shortened 2020 season unless Players negotiate salary concessions,” Clark said in his statement. “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.”
MLB has claimed its financial losses will be too overwhelming to pay full proration on a season of much longer than 50-ish games. The union already considers its concession to not be paid for games not played this year a substantial sacrifice and see the owners asking for more as a request that goes too far.
All of this imperils the most ideal restart date of the July 4 weekend, when MLB would be able to best try to renew its historic place as the national pastime. But to do so, the sides were likely going to need to be able to complete a negotiation by early next week at the latest to still give three weeks for a spring training 2.0.
But at this point, the sides publicly remain entrenched in positions that not only threaten the best start time, but maybe the whole season.