After Major League Baseball’s owners approved a proposal to start the 2020 season amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic Monday, negotiations between the league and the players’ union began Tuesday.
The update? Well, there’s not much of one. The fireworks that followed Monday’s approval — descriptions of the proposal as a “non-starter” with the union and union chief Tony Clark accusing the owners’ proposed revenue-sharing plan of being an attempted salary cap — segued to a day where the economic plan was not even formally submitted, according to numerous reports.
Instead, much of the day’s conversations were said to have focused on health and safety concerns from players being asked to return to work in the middle of a pandemic.
Washington Nationals pitcher Sean Doolittle laid out Monday just how many questions there are when it comes to whether Major League Baseball can guarantee the health and safety of not just the players but the massive group of people required to stage a season. In addition to the players, coaches, trainers, front office staff, stadium staff, food-service staff, hotel staff, transportation staff and the people required to broadcast games on TV would all need to be frequently tested in order to safely start the season.
MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported that the league believes it can acquire enough tests and that it wouldn’t even play without enough testing.
MLB does believe they will be able to acquire adequate testing, which is an absolute necessity to make this work. Without enough testing, they won’t play.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) May 12, 2020
Meanwhile, the level of testing in the United States remains far below where medical experts say it needs to be, and the number of cases and deaths are reportedly projected to rise as a result of certain states relaxing measures put in place to prevent the spread of the virus.
But while those health concerns are of greater importance, the financial disagreement that is expected to spark a labor battle remains the elephant in the room.
With an 82-game schedule and games being played without paying customers in the stands, baseball’s revenues are expected to significantly decline this season. Though the players agreed earlier this year to accept prorated salaries — down to roughly half of their worth in an 82-game season — the owners are looking for further concessions as a cost-cutting measure.
While the players believe the earlier agreement put the matter to bed, the owners believe the language in the agreement allows them to ask for further pay cuts.
The players were not at all receptive when news of the proposal broke Monday. But according to Heyman, the owners are saying they will not pay the prorated salaries.
MLB’s position is that it will lose more money if they play games without fans and pay prorated salaries than if they don’t play at all. Thus, owners are saying they will not pay pro-rated salaries.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) May 13, 2020
Those issues are expected to be discussed more intensely in the coming days.
Fans, surely, are itching for baseball to return and fast. The proposal, subject to change depending on the evolution of the public-health situation across the country, sets a second spring training to begin in mid June and regular-season play to begin in early July. And certainly many can relate to players desiring measures in place to assure their health and the health of their families.
But the optics of millionaires and billionaires arguing over how to divide up billions of dollars while tens of thousands of Americans have died and tens of millions have lost their jobs are terrible.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean those arguments won’t happen.