The relationship between the MLB owners and players is not in a good place right now. After weeks of going back-and-forth of 'he said', 'they said' and both sides trying to one-up another in negotiations we seemingly are nowhere closer to baseball than we were in early April.
The two have reached a stalemate where neither group looks good. Neither claims the other is acting in good faith.
To sum up everything that has transpired in the last several months, a 2020 MLB season is in major jeopardy. And many insiders anticipate the damage from this argument could have lasting effects on the game.
Where the owners and MLBPA negotiations stand
On Saturday, June 13 the players promptly responded to MLB's latest proposal that players indicate was a 72-game season at 70% of an also previously agreed upon prorated pay. They basically said they were done negotiating.
The MLBPA asked Commissioner Rob Manfred to impose a 50-game with prorated pay as was part of an original salary agreement in March. To which they closed their answer with, "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.”
What followed was baseball trying to cover themselves as their bluff was called. Manfred appeared on SportsCenter saying he was less than 100 percent confident of a season. The league's chief negotiating officer responded by saying they won't impose a season without the players signing a waiver, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The waiver absolves MLB from negotiating in bad faith. That makes things very sticky for MLB and the owners if it is proven they did.
Why the MLBPA and MLB owners are being difficult
Baseball is in a unique situation compared to hockey, basketball and football. They have to plan a full season, not just the conclusion of the regular season and playoffs. Nor do they have five months to prepare for their regularly scheduled opening day.
MLB's money is tightly intertwined with ticket revenue (40%), understandable considering they have a 162-game season. That money is lost considering the United States is still a ways away from universally allowing fans to attend sporting events. The league claims that each game without fans costs the owners $640,000,
Having a season without fans is not profitable, at least according to the owners. A claim the players do not agree with especially after the MLB agreed to TV rights with Turner for over $3 billion.
Players have already given up a portion of their salaries as a part of the March agreement. In addition, not only are they risking their health and safety but the health of their families and other individuals they are in contact with.
But a big factor are players overwhelmingly not seeing the owners acting in good faith. A report indicates that MLB's stuborness is a part of a stall tactic to reduce the number of games and therefore owed salaries. It is further compounding when another report says at least six owners don't want a season.
MLB players are testing positive for COVID-19
To make matters worse, players are testing positive for the coronavirus - as can be expected with the nationwide testing capacity increasing every day - according to an Associated Press report. This could spread further when players return to facilities to train and once games commence.
Unlike the NBA, WNBA and NHL who have a 'bubble site' to prevent the outside risk of coronavirus being exposed to the players, MLB's latest reported are assumed to be at home stadiums.
Surely the MLB will implement some sort of preventative measures, but the risk will be greater in baseball compared to other sports. An issue several players, including Sean Doolittle, have spoken out against.
What is more criticized though is the timing of the leak to the media of the players who tested positive. It was right after the players' rebuttal and Manfred's lack of confidence.
Now there's another wrinkle. Dr. Anthony Fauci suggests the MLB not extend the season in October.
What's next for MLB?
Baseball is a mess. The only person that has the power to mediate relationships is Manfred. The way the commissioner handles this could be the determining factor on how his legacy and reputation be viewed during his tenure.
He could set a 50-game season without discussing terms with the players. He could tell the owners (who he represents) to get in line. He could also continue the parade of sending another proposal to the union and await a response. Canceling the season altogether another option.
Whatever season-length - if there is one - it's not going to be long. Time is running out and the players need an additional training camp. Each day limits further and further how long a season can go.
The next, and really only, move lies in the hands of Manfred.
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