10:46PM: Correcting an earlier report, USA Today Bob Nightengale tweets that there won’t be any counter-offer from the league to the players.
9:12PM: Major League Baseball has also released a statement in regards to today’s news…
We are disappointed that the MLBPA has chosen not to negotiate in good faith over resumption of play after MLB has made three successive proposals that would provide players, Clubs and our fans with an amicable resolution to a very difficult situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The MLBPA understands that the agreement reached on March 26th was premised on the parties’ mutual understanding that the players would be paid their full salaries only if play resumed in front of fans, and that another negotiation was to take place if Clubs could not generate the billions of dollars of ticket revenue required to pay players. The MLBPA’s position that players are entitled to virtually all the revenue from a 2020 season played without fans is not fair to the thousands of other baseball employees that Clubs and our office are supporting financially during this very difficult 2020 season. We will evaluate the Union’s refusal to adhere to the terms of the March Agreement, and after consulting with ownership, determine the best course to bring baseball back to our fans.
6:23PM: As expected, the MLB Players Association has turned down the owners’ latest proposal for the 2020 season, ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan reports (Twitter link). No counter offer is coming, as MLBPA executive director Tony Clark indicated in a public statement that players will now turn their attention towards preparing for whatever type of regular season Commissioner Rob Manfred decides to impose.
The rest of Clark’s statement…
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.
As definitive as Clark’s statement is, more last-second negotiations between the two sides can’t be entirely ruled out. (After all, the owners allegedly weren’t planning to make any further counters after an earlier offer in June, though the two sides continued to swap proposals after that so-called final offer.) Barring an eleventh-hour breakthrough, however, it appears as though there won’t be any agreement to begin the 2020 season under conditions that both the union and the league could at least tolerate, if not fully embrace. As such, Manfred can now make a unilateral decision about the length of the 2020 regular season, as was decided back in March in the initial agreement between Major League Baseball and the MLBPA about how to proceed in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The league’s most recent proposal offered the players a 72-game regular season and 70 percent of their prorated salaries, with the prorated salary number jumping to 83 percent if the postseason was completed in its entirety. While the offer contained several other details, it’s clear that the issue of prorated salary was the main sticking point, as the MLBPA has steadfastly maintained that they were owed their full share of prorated salaries, as per their interpretation of the now infamously vague March agreement. Owners, by contrast, have insisted that paying these full prorated salaries would create too much of a financial burden (over $4 billion in losses, by the league’s calculations) given that these games are expected to be played without any fans in attendance.
To say these negotiations haven’t gone smoothly is an understatement. There has been quite the public war of words between players, owners, and league and union officials in the last several weeks, ranging from social media barbs to controversial interviews to increasingly pointed communiques between the two sides. None of this back-and-forth has seemingly brought the league and players any closer to a deal, and has largely served only as a PR battle that has brought a ton of public criticism directed at both parties.
As per earlier offers from the league, Manfred could wind up imposing a regular season of roughly 50 games — reportedly all the owners can financially manage given the MLBPA’s insistence on full prorated salaries. According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (Twitter link), the union wants to see the league’s plans for beginning the season by Monday, as per a letter from union negotiator Bruce Meyer to deputy commissioner Dan Halem.
Should the league’s plans indeed come so quickly, we could be on track for baseball’s return by roughly mid-July, factoring in time for players to ramp up their preparation in a “Spring Training 2.0” camp before beginning what will surely be the strangest season in baseball’s long history. Even beyond such details as the formats of the regular season and postseason, roster construction, transactions, etc., there is also the looming spectre of COVID-19, and how the league will implement health and safety procedures to best protect players, coaches, staff, and other involved parties.