The fate of the 2020 Major League Baseball season is now in the hands of commissioner Rob Manfred after the players union said it rejected the owners’ proposal for a 60-game schedule.
According to multiple media reports on Monday, the MLB Players Association executive board voted 33-5 against the offer from management.
Manfred is now widely expected to exercise his power to implement a season of 50 to 60 games. However, ESPN reported that a faction of hardline owners could push the commissioner to cancel the season completely, with players’ salaries possibly outweighing the income that could be generated by holding games with empty stadiums.
By rejecting MLB’s latest proposal, the union preserves its right to file a grievance over the length and financial terms of the season, maintaining that owners didn’t negotiate in good faith. Manfred has made the same accusation regarding the MLBPA’s negotiation strategy.
“Earlier this evening, the full Board reaffirmed the players’ eagerness to return to work as soon and as safely as possible,” the MLBPA said in a statement. “To that end we anticipate finalizing a comprehensive set of health and safety protocols with Major League Baseball in the coming days, and we await word from the league on the resumption of spring training camps and a proposed 2020 schedule.
“While we had hoped to reach a revised back to work agreement with the league, the Players remain fully committed to proceeding under our current agreement and getting back on the field for the fans, for the game, and for each other.”
Last-ditch attempts for MLB and the MLBPA to reach an agreement reportedly were sought on Monday as the window to hold a season continues to close.
The Athletic analyst Jim Bowden tweeted that the proposal the union rejected Monday would have given players their full prorated salaries for 60 games, but it would not have guaranteed salaries if games weren’t played.
The vote was initially due to be held Sunday, but a large number of positive COVID-19 tests caused a delay.
Citing two sources close to the situation, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported that 40 MLB players and staff members tested positive in the last week. Nightengale added that Manfred and MLBPA executive director Tony Clark exchanged emails with “tweaks” to their proposals.
According to Nightengale, the recent uptick in COVID-19 infections will push the start of the season back to July 26 at the earliest, with spring training resuming no earlier than June 29.
On Sunday, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported Manfred wrote a letter to Clark offering to cancel expanded playoffs and the universal designated hitter for 2021 (the owners’ latest proposal had those elements in place for 2020 and ’21). But, Passan added, “Players are concerned about giving up leverage of playoffs for naught.”
Nightengale reported Manfred also promised that players on non-guaranteed contracts who were arbitration-eligible in 2019 but released during spring training would receive full termination pay.
The season was scheduled to start March 26, but the coronavirus pandemic led to the ongoing delay.
–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)