The back-and-forth volleying between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association to salvage the 2020 season amid the Covid-19 pandemic continued as the union issued a new proposal for an 89-game season, full prorated salaries, and expanded playoffs.
As has been the case throughout the troubled labor negotiations, a core issue has been the level of payment to players for the abbreviated season. The MLBPA continues to insist on full prorated salaries, believing that matter was settled during a prior March agreement covering pandemic-related issues.
Owners, conversely, have offered to pay full prorated salaries only in the event of a much shorter season around 50 games, and have told players playing more regular-season games would require additional discounts on the prorated compensation. And each of management’s proposals to date, regardless of the construction, have generally hovered in the range of $1.3-$1.4bn in total 2020 player compensation.
The union’s latest proposal would see about $2.2bn in aggregate player payments, slightly more than half of the roughly $4bn in compensation that would have been paid had there been a full, 162-game regular season. By coming down from the prior 114-game proposal, the latest union offer represents a total pay reduction more than $600m.
The MLBPA is in favor of the expanded postseason to as many as 16 teams that the owners want, particularly as the 2020 playoffs will be a key revenue source for the sport with the shorter schedule this year and the likelihood of most, if not all, games played without attending fans. But the union has only discussed enlarging the playoffs in the context of a larger agreement.
MLB has not commented or made an official response to the union’s latest proposal. But industry sources said owners initially had a dim view on the union’s latest proposal. Beyond the economic divide, the players’ offer would also see this season extend into mid-to-late November, and owners are reluctant to end the season after the normal late October conclusion, fearing a Covid-19 resurgence.
St. Louis Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr., speaking on a radio interview with Fan590 The Fan in St. Louis, Missouri, suggested MLB was moving toward imposing the shorter season, even if meant losing the ability to reach a deal on expanded playoffs.
“At some point, we have a right to implement a season [at] full salary,” DeWitt said. “The only way it makes sense is with a shorter season. I think that’s the way it will turn out.”
Pressure continues to grow around MLB as many other US team sports properties including the National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, and Major League Soccer are progressing on their return-to-play plans. And Nascar, which has already resumed competition, is now moving toward allowing limited fan attendance at some races.