The Major League Baseball Players Association on Saturday rejected the owners’ latest proposal for starting the season, with the union telling the league to set a schedule rather than offering a counterproposal.
FILE PHOTO: The empty field and stands at Nationals Park, home of Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Washington Nationals, are seen after it was reported MLB owners approved a plan that could start the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak-delayed season around the Fourth of July in ballparks without fans, in Washington, U.S., May 13, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Shortly after the news broke, MLBPA executive director Tony Clark issued a 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 on 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 drastically 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.”
According to a March agreement between the sides, MLB is allowed to set a schedule in the absence of a negotiated agreement with the union. If MLB implements a schedule, expected to be between 48 and 55 games, the union then likely would file a grievance that the league failed to live up to its obligation of playing the most games possible, according to ESPN.
Per multiple reports, the dialogue behind the scenes is even more contentious.
The Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin reported that Bruce Meyer, lead negotiator for the players, told his MLB counterpart Dan Halem, “Without getting into all of your underhanded tactics to circumvent the union, your approach has been one delay tactic after another.”
The New York Post’s Joel Sherman tweeted: “Players’ position becomes clearer: let MLB decide how many games willing to impose at full prorated, then file a grievance that MLB failed best efforts to play as many games as possible.”
And MLB Network’s Jon Heyman tweeted shortly before Clark released his statement: “Things may get even more heated now in MLB/player negotiations. Hear players are very upset with the way the owners are negotiating, even maybe fed up.”
ESPN’s Jeff Passan originally reported Friday that the owners’ latest offer was for a 72-game season with players getting 83 percent of their prorated salary when $50 million in playoff bonuses are included. As the two sides have gone back-and-forth for weeks, perhaps the biggest sticking point has been the prorating of salary. Players have repeatedly demanded their full prorated salaries, while owners, throughout negotiations, have slowly raised the amount they are willing to pay.
Also on Saturday, news broke of a reported $1 billion deal between MLB and Turner Sports that would allow the network to continue airing one of baseball’s championship series each October. The specific length and financials of the deal were not yet known, but that is the deal to which Clark referred in his letter.
After news of the TV deal broke, numerous players took to social media to call out what they believe to be the hypocrisy of owners. On Tuesday of this week, St. Louis Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr. said in an interview that baseball “isn’t very profitable to be quite honest.”
Among them was Cincinnati pitcher Trevor Bauer, who sarcastically tweeted, “Oh good so…we can play now, right? … Seems there is plenty of money being made by the league and the teams. Given than players are the product, I’m sure some of this can be distributed to them, right? Yay for baseball!”
Tweeting in alternating caps meant to show a mocking tone, San Francisco shortstop Brandon Crawford tweeted, “ThE iNdUsTrY jUsT iSnT tHaT pRoFiTaBlE” and Philadelphia outfielder Andrew McCutchen adding, “bUT bAsEbAlL iS dYiNg!”
Baseball halted spring training on March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic and eventually pushed back Opening Day indefinitely.
Commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday that he was “100 percent” certain the season will occur.
—Field Level Media