A final resolution may be near in talks to resume the 2020 Major League Baseball season, but a firm agreement between MLB and the MLB Players Association doesn’t seem likely.
According to ESPN’s Jesse Rogers, the MLBPA executive board voted 33-5 on Monday to reject the 60-game schedule included in the framework of a potential deal discussed by commissioner Rob Manfred and union president Tony Clark in Arizona. This leaves the door open for Manfred to determine how many games will be played in 2020 per a March 26 agreement between players and owners — but some believe a potential grievance from the players union could be lingering.
It remains unclear when we could hear about a schedule from MLB. Initial reports said the league could have an announcement Monday night, but later reports said there will be a call with owners on Monday night. In a statement, the players union says it remains committed to getting on the field under the terms of the previous agreement — which called for prorated salaries — and working with the league on a set of health and safety protocols.
The MLBPA Executive Board met multiple times in recent days to assess the status of our efforts to resume the 2020 season.
Earlier this evening, the full Board reaffirmed the players’ eagerness to return to work as soon and as safely as possible. 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.
After talks finally appeared to gain traction early in the week, the two sides reached another stalemate on Thursday. MLB officials reportedly felt a deal was close after Manfred’s meeting with Clark. The official league proposal included full prorated salaries over 60 games.
The players responded with a 70-game proposal that was quickly and resoundingly rejected by the owners. The league had been asking for a second pay cut for players if more games were to be played. Now, it is expected that Manfred will impose a shorter season — perhaps even fewer than 60 games — with prorated salaries that will keep the total for players in line with what owners want.
The next step in baseball’s return, short of a surprise return to the bargaining table, will be an official mandate from Manfred on when the season will start and how many games will be played. The threat of a grievance from the players, which could be worth more than $1 billion if owners were to lose, was one of the reasons owners wanted to find a deal with players.
Now, don’t be surprised if Manfred implementing a season means some players decide not to play, according to reporter Robert Murray:
It is now up to Rob Manfred to implement a season. If he does, as expected, the expectation among agents is that multiple players will sit out. Will be something to watch.— Robert Murray (@ByRobertMurray) June 22, 2020
At the same time, the league is facing another hurdle — this one coronavirus-related, after a surge in cases forced MLB to shutdown all 30 spring training facilities. On Friday, we learned that at least five Philadelphia Phillies players have tested positive. That led the Phillies and the Toronto Blue Jays to close their Florida training facilities immediately. The Astros also confirmed one of their players tested positive, while the Angels learned of two players testing positive. By Sunday, the count has risen to 40 players and staff members around MLB that had tested positive for coronavirus in the last week.
It’s a reminder that even if MLB puts a plan and a firm schedule in place, there is no guarantee baseball will be played in 2020.
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