After months of expectations that the shortened 2020 season would usher in an expanded playoff format, the inability of MLB and the MLBPA to come together on an agreement instead maintained the 10-team postseason status quo. The March agreement under which commissioner Rob Manfred implemented a 60-game season stipulated that playoffs could not be expanded unless negotiated with the Players Association. Expanded postseason play (and revenue) was the union’s main piece of leverage in talks, but when no agreement was reached, the playoff structure went unchanged.
Might the two sides still look to work out an agreement, though? Asked by Ronald Blum of the Associated Press, MLBPA executive director Tony Clark wouldn’t rule it out. The lines of communication between the league and the union “remain open,” Clark explained. “I would simply say that if there’s interest to discuss something, I’ll be available to discuss it,” Clark added.
Major League Baseball, per Blum, could yet make another attempt to negotiate an expanded postseason format. The main sticking point for the union had been length of schedule and prorated play. With a 60-game season now set and prorated play in place, the union would likely look to other concessions. Previous proposals exchanged between the two sides had temporary elimination of the qualifying offer system in place, for instance, although it’s easy to imagine teams forgoing QOs for all but the market’s most elite free agents this winter thanks to revenue losses.
There’s a wide range of other possibilities for the union to pursue. An expanded share of postseason revenue — players are currently only owed a share of gate revenue — future QO concessions, increased forgiveness of the $170MM advance payout of salaries from the March agreement and any number of other topics could be put on the table. With the current collective bargaining agreement set to expire in Dec. 2021, the union could even proactively look to some broader issues that figure to prove critical in what will surely be a contentious negotiation next year.
Players have agreed to begin reporting to summer training camp by July 1, so it seems unlikely that this will be a drawn-out process. Clark and Manfred weren’t able to agree on much of anything over more than a month of contentious negotiations, which doesn’t exactly bode well for a swift accord in this case. That said, Manfred spoke to Blum of a need for both the league and players to have “less-charged” conversations. “We owe it to our fans to be better than we’ve been the last three months,” said the commissioner.
If the MLBPA is still amenable to postseason alterations, it stands to reason that ownership would have interest in one final attempt at the dramatic revenue increase that would accompany a larger postseason field.