The Major League Baseball Players Association did not counter the league’s latest proposal Saturday. They punted it into the neighbor’s yard.
The MLBPA has now reached the point of daring the league to impose a 50-game season for full prorated pay. Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred threatened to force such a move -- it appears both sides think he would be within his rights based on an agreement reached in March -- earlier in the week. Saturday, the union’s ambitious response to the league’s latest offer ostensibly told him, “Go ahead.”
Here is the statement from MLBPA executive director Tony Clark:
“Players want to play. It’s who we are and what we do.
“Since March, the Association has made it clear that our No. 1 focus is playing the fullest season possible, as soon as possible, as safely as possible. Players agreed to billions in monetary concessions as a means to that end, and in the face of repeated media leaks and misdirection we made additional proposals to inject new revenues into the industry -- proposals that would benefit the owners, players, broadcast partners, and fans alike.
“It’s now become apparent that these efforts have fallen upon deaf ears. In recent days, owners have decried the supposed unprofitability of owning a baseball team and the Commissioner has repeatedly threatened to schedule a dramatically shortened season unless players agree to hundreds of millions in further concessions. Our response has been consistent that such concessions are unwarranted, would be fundamentally unfair to players, and that our sport deserves the fullest 2020 season possible. These remain our positions today, particularly in light of new reports regarding MLB’s national television rights -- information we requested from the league weeks ago but were never provided.
“As a result, it unfortunately appears that further dialogue with the league would be futile. It’s time to get back to work. Tell us when and where.”
So, let’s unpack that statement and the subsequent status of this petulant finger-pointing extravaganza.
First, to the players’ reaction to the league’s last offer. They laughed out loud. Literally.
Philadelphia outfielder Andrew McCutchen made a comparative skit on Friday then released it on Twitter. He posed it as the league and the players talking. In the skit, he promised a child juice if he “went potty” properly. The child executed the task, then McCutchen tried to pawn water off in lieu of the juice despite the prior agreement. This is where we are.
Pittsburgh pitcher Trevor Williams quote-tweeted a reporter’s statement that the league proposal for a 72-game season at 70 percent of the previously agreed upon prorated pay, would expire Sunday and commented, “It expired as soon as they hit send.”
On his Twitter account, Sean Doolittle again lamented the idea of health waivers in order to play.
The trio’s dissatisfaction was a harbinger of Saturday’s fist-shaking letter and, according to ESPN, a directive to answer for the league to answer by Monday. Not helping was a news break from the New York Post on Saturday that the league and Turner Sports had agreed upon a new billion-dollar broadcast deal to air the LCS and part of the playoffs. According to the Post, the annual cost to retain those rights went from $350 million to $500 million. The report only served to further raise the players’ hackles. So, Clark included another dig there.
Which means baseball moved closer to a start and a farcical state. A 50-game season will not provide an authentic champion or legitimate MVP or Cy Young winner. It will not do anything other than drop some pennies into pockets instead of none. And, it will probably convince certain key players not to bother.
This was never expected to be easy. Both sides carry disdain for each other built across years of battling. Little beyond a grand, and not forthcoming, gesture will quell their vitriol. However, this also was not expected to be this hard. Yet it has become so.
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