MLB season update: Where we are and how we got here
The end of the line may lead to an MLB season, but this is not how anyone wanted to get to it.
On Monday, the 30 team representatives and eight executive committee members of the MLBPA rejected the league’s proposal to play 60 games in 2020 by a vote of 33-5, putting the season in the hands of MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, who can implement a season.
Before setting the number of games to be played, Manfred has asked that the player’s union provide the league with two pieces of information by 5 p.m. Eastern Tuesday. The first is whether players will be able to report to camp within seven days (by July 1). The second is whether the Players Association will agree on the Operating Manual, which contains the health and safety protocols that have yet to be formally agreed to.
What we are left with now is the March 26 agreement. Manfred is expected to set a 60-game schedule and the players will receive their full prorated salaries for games played. They are under no obligation to agree to expanded playoffs, the universal DH or any of the other revenue-generating items that were proposed. They also will not receive additional playoff bonuses or any forgiveness on the $170 million salary advance. When and if the league takes the field, it will do so with both sides having left items on the table and inflicting damage on their sport as they let the golden opportunity of being the first team sport to return get away.
A quick look what has transpired since baseball shut down and how we got here:
• March 26: MLB and the MLBPA come to agreement on how to proceed as baseball is shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. The agreement, which covers items including compensation, scheduling and service time is still in place and is worth a good look as it will dictate much of what comes next.
• April 20: With return-to-play scenarios (which included salary negotiation) starting to be floated, MLBPA chief Tony Clark tells the Associated Press that player compensation had been settled in the March agreement. “That negotiation is over.”
• May 6: ESPN’s Jeff Passan tweets that some teams are telling players to increase their workloads and start getting ready for a season.
Teams are telling players to get ready and get in shape. MLB is expected to send a return-to-play proposal to the union soon. The gears for baseball's return are starting to turn — but significant hurdles remain for it to become a reality. News at ESPN: https://t.co/fHiasxlS1A
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 7, 2020
• May 12: MLB owners vote on a revenue-sharing plan with a 50/50 split and make it known publicly. The players union is vocal about seeing this as a salary cap and declare it a nonstarter. The proposal is never formally presented.
• May 26: MLB makes its first proposal, calling for 82 games on a sliding pay scale. Those with the lowest salaries would be paid 72.5% pro rata for remaining games. Players whose total salaries fell in the $10-20 million range would make 30% while those at $20 million plus would earn 20%.
• May 31: Players counter with a proposal for 114 games at full pro rata. They also offer expanded playoffs, media concessions (in-game mics, extra off-field interview options) and a small financial deferral if no postseason is played. Players also ask for an opt out with pay for high risk players, and an opt out, no pay with service time for players with high risk in household.
• June 1: MLB floats idea of shorter season.
• June 4: The MLBPA rejects the idea of a shorter season in a statement tweeted by Clark, which points to revenue-generating items in their proposal.
• June 8: MLB makes its second proposal og 76 games at 75% pro rata if the World Series is completed, which translates to approximately $1.43 billion in salary in a best-case scenario. It also offers playoff pool money and no draft pick compensation in the offseason.
• June 9: The MLBPA counters with a proposal of 89 games, full pro rata.
• June 10: Manfred guarantees season “100%” on pre-MLB Draft shows on two different networks. He says the league is preparing a proposal that should bring the two sides closer but hopes that the player’s union will come off their full pro rata stance a bit.
• June 12: MLB makes its third proposal, this one 72 games, 80% pro rata – full pro rata if the World Series is completed. Offers a $50 million bonus fund for playoff teams.
• June 13: “Tell us when and where.” Clark announces via Twitter that further dialogue with the league would appear to be pointless. Asks Manfred to set a season.
• June 15: Five days after saying “100%” that there will be a season, Manfred says in an ESPN interview he is “not confident” that there will be a season.
• June 17: Manfred and Clark meet in Phoenix, where Clark lives, and come up with what Manfred believes was a joint meeting “framework,” which Clark apparently believed to be a “starting point” for further negotiation.
– 60 games in 70 days ($1.5 billion in salary)
-$25 million bonus pool
-$33 million forgiveness (Tier 1 only) toward $170 million advanced in March 26 agreement
-Players waive right to file a grievance
• June 18: The MLBPA counters “framework” with a 70-game proposal that includes $50 million in playoff bonus, forgiveness of salary advance for Tier 1-3 players, 50/50 split of new postseason TV revenues in 2021, and both sides waiving the right to grievance.
• June 19: MLB informs the MLBPA they will not make a counter proposal.
In voting to reject MLB’s final plan, the player’s union retains its right to file a grievance. We could see the MLBPA claim that MLB did not, as dictated under the terms of the March 26 agreement, make “its best efforts to play as many games as possible.” The owners, believing the March 26 agreement allowed for salary adjustments should games be played without spectators, could file a grievance that the players negotiated in bad faith.
Most disappointing, what we haven’t seen at any point in these negotiations is the two sides working together to bring baseball back. It appears baseball will be played, the league will get to set the schedule and the players will have stuck together – mostly. One member of the executive committee is believed to have been against rejecting MLB’s proposal, and the 33-5 vote would indicate four teams wanted to take the final offer. Players will receive full pro rata, but in truth, with what we have seen unfold over the last two months and a new collective bargaining agreement looming, it is hard to see a winning side in what has transpired.