4:27pm: The vote is taking place right now, per Jon Heyman of MLB Network (via Twitter).
11:25am: The Major League Baseball Players Association is meeting this afternoon to vote on the league’s proposal for a 60-game season, ESPN’s Enrique Rojas reports (Twitter links). Reports over the weekend had indicated that a union vote would take place “in the coming days.” Thirty-eight players — the MLBPA’s eight-man executive subcommittee and each team’s individual union rep — are weighing in.
Tensions flared again last week as commissioner Rob Manfred and MLBPA chief Tony Clark again failed to even agree on what defines an agreement. The two had an in-person meeting early last week, and Manfred came away suggesting that the meeting produced a “jointly developed framework that we agreed could form the basis of an agreement.”
Despite the use of “could form the basis” in that statement (as opposed to a concrete declaration of accord), ownership was of the mind that an agreement had at last been reached. The union disagreed and countered with a 70-game schedule. Angry at receiving a counter when they believed a deal to be in place, owners informed the MLBPA that they would not play a season greater than 60 games in length and would not make a counter-offer.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported last night that the league was prepared to make some concessions outside the length of schedule, including its willingness to give up expanded playoffs and the universal DH in 2021 in the event that a full season isn’t played. That would serve to avoid a scenario where ownership gets the expanded 2021 playoffs it has clearly coveted even as players don’t see the salary or length of schedule for which they so ardently pushed over the course of this interminable back-and-forth.
Citing an email from Manfred to Clark, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that next Monday (June 29) is the earliest that a relaunched Spring Training could resume. Manfred himself is quoted saying as much. Nightengale also indicates that the earliest the league believes the season can commence is July 26.
There’s been longstanding speculation that the league’s ultimate goal was to wait this out so long that the length of season the MLBPA desired simply isn’t feasible because of the calendar. Whether that motivation is accurate, we’re nearing that point. A June 29 launch to a new training camp that lasts three weeks would bring us to July 20. That might leave some slight wiggle room to start the season earlier than the July 26 date conveyed by Nightengale, but the league has made abundantly clear that it has no plans to extend regular-season play beyond Sept. 27 or to play more than 60 games.
If no agreement is reached, it’s likely that Manfred will implement a season of shorter length (and without an expanded postseason format). At that point, the union could file a grievance arguing MLB did not make its “best efforts to play as many games as possible,” which was stipulated in the March agreement that allows Manfred to impose a season length.
All of this back-and-forth regarding the season length is happening while the league and union discuss safety protocols following a week that saw 40 players and team personnel test positive for the coronavirus. The manner in which the league formulates a plan to limit and (when they do inevitably occur) address similar in-season outbreaks is the other major and far less clear component of return-to-play negotiations.