MLB and the MLB Players Association are still at odds over how many games they will play and how much players will be paid if they resume the season after the coronavirus pandemic.The “heated” negotiations underscore a fractured relationship between the two sides, with ESPN’s Jeff Passan describing the relationship as “adversarial.”Despite the clear incentives to come back in a sports-starved time, some fear baseball is facing disaster if it can’t return this year, with labor negotiations that promise to get ugly on the horizon.Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
At a time when there is a craving for live sports, MLB cannot seem to get out of its own way.With the 2020 MLB season delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, the league and its players are still negotiating the broad points of how many games they will pay and how much the players will be paid.In March, the league and players association agreed to prorate player salaries based on the number of games played.However, MLB teams believe further salary cuts should be discussed since games will most likely be played without fans. Teams argue that the more games they play based on the current salary structures, the more money they will lose.
Players argue that they should not make further concessions. The players union wants to see hard evidence of the financial state of MLB’s teams that prove that they would lose money this season.Underscoring all of this is the deep distrust between the league, its teams, and the players association.ESPN MLB insider Jeff Passan said on “The Woj Pod” last week that the relationship between MLB and the players union has become “adversarial.””Major League Baseball and the MLBPA is an adversarial relationship,” Passan said. “They almost have to work together just to get games on the field … As Rob Manfred, the commissioner of baseball, has consolidated power, he has done so, and done so with a bit of an adversarial bent toward the union. There is not a lot of respect between him and Tony Clark, the MLBPA executive director. There is no love lost at the lower levels of the commissioner’s office and the MLBPA leadership. And because of that, we’re at this impasse right now where all parties should, in an ideal world, work together to come back without any issues, but issues are abounding in baseball right now.”
As the league and union have negotiated back and forth, little progress has been made, with reports describing digital meetings as “heated.”Most recently, MLBPA proposed a 114-game season, deferred salaries in the event the postseason is canceled, and the option for players to opt-out of the 2020 season. It was rejected by owners, who maintained that the more games played, the more money they would lose. Owners proposed pay cuts by tiers, with the highest-paid players taking steeper cuts.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred.
LM Otero/AP Images
On Monday, Passan reported that owners intended to propose a 50-game schedule while paying players their prorated salaries.Except, as The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich reported, the proposal was not pitched to the players union; it was leaked via the media.As ESPN’s Buster Olney wrote on Monday — before Passan reported owners’ latest idea — the frequent leaks to the media have only sewn further distrust from the players. Wrote Olney:
“A question asked on both sides: Is it possible for the owners’ side to refrain from the destructive practice of leaking offers to the media? This practice has repeatedly undercut the effort to construct a bridge of trust and shaped the perception of owners’ motives.”The owners and league maintain that if players don’t agree to further pay concessions, then the league can decide on the number of games. According to The Athletic, some players took the 50-game “proposal” as a “threat.”However, other players view it as the beginning of a negotiation — back to 82 games, the initial proposal.—Jared Diamond (@jareddiamond) June 1, 2020 To some, MLB and baseball as a sport are facing dire consequences if they cannot get the season off the ground. There is a considerable motivation for American sports leagues to be the first to return in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
While all agree that some baseball games are better than none, MLB is at risk of not being able to return at all. The league’s collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2021 season. Given the way negotiations have gone this season — and in past offseasons over issues like free agency — the next round of labor negotiations has the chance to be as bitter and unflinching as the league has seen.”Long term, these negotiations might serve to galvanize everyone,” Rosenthal and Drellich wrote. “Players and agents would view a 50-game proposal as the latest in a series of aggressive acts by MLB, including the tiered pay cuts that piqued their anger last week. The proceedings could eventually color next year’s negotiation of the entire collective bargaining agreement.”Olney suggested baseball could lose its place in the popularity rankings of American sports if it can’t find a way to resume this season, creating a ripple effect for future years. Many agree that the league and its players are on the clock to find a resolution.