New York Yankees fans are going to have to continue to wait for baseball of any kind. As the clock ticks away on a 2020 baseball season, the MLB representing the owners sent their latest and “final” proposal to the MLBPA (players union). The proposal was included in a sharply worded five-page letter that didn’t address a new season until the third page of the letter. Most of the preceding pages blamed the players for the present stalemate in the “non-negotiations” to get a season started.
The new attempt to have baseball this year highlights the growing ill will between the parties. The latest plan presented yesterday calls for a 72 game season ending at the normal end of September timeframe, with an expanded postseason of sixteen teams played in October. The players would receive 70 percent of their prorated salaries for the regular season and up to 80 percent if the postseason is completed.
The plan will surely be rejected by the players union, as have all the previous plans. The players continue to be steadfast in demanding 100% of their prorated salaries and not share in any of the losses the owners will endure due to no ticket sales and no concession revenues. The stumbling block to a season is over money, but also in the differing interpretations of the original March agreement.
The March agreement was for players to receive 50% of their salaries based on a season of half as many games. At the time of that agreement, the progress of the COVID-19 virus was unknown, as was the fact that fans would not be allowed in the stands. The owners contend that the players are not entitled to any payment in the first place because Commissioner Rob Manfred had the authority to suspend all contracts once President Trump declared a national emergency on March 13.
At the time of the original agreement, MLB made it crystal clear to the union that the clubs would not be forced to resume play without fans because it would not be economically feasible. However, it was not stated in the agreement.
Though Friday’s proposal was not necessarily a final overall offer, it might well mark the last time MLB is willing to consider a season as long as 72 games. Each passing day potentially cuts into the length of the schedule, particularly given the owners’ insistence that the playoffs be completed on schedule, citing the potential for a second wave of COVID-19 in the fall and the reluctance of broadcast partners to reschedule their October postseason windows.
As was said earlier, if the players still insist on 100% of their prorated salaries and more games, this lastest proposal will like the others to be rejected. They have until Sunday to give their answer. If the players do not accept the proposal it may force Manfred to impose a season of the owners liking. This could cause the union to file a grievance or chose to go on strike like they did in 1994.
Damage has already been done to the game of baseball as fans are turning away. Both the owners and players must realize that further damage will be difficult to overcome, and no season will not be quickly be forgotten by fans. The owners have compromised, the players refuse to, causing what can be called extreme ill will. Even though the players will receive less pay per game under this latest plan, they will receive $300 million more in pay than if Manfred imposes a shorter season.
It’s been clear since the beginning of MLB negotiations that the coronavirus will dictate the season. In the past few weeks, the economy has partially reopened around the country. Now 14 states have reported increased cases of the coronavirus, surging in some states. The question now is, will Manfred have the final word or will the coronavirus? Whichever the case baseball now has a great big black eye.