The Major League Baseball Players Association quickly countered the league’s latest offer, sending a proposal Tuesday for an 89-game season, but still demanding full prorated pay for the players.
Both the length of the regular season – especially that it would stretch until Oct. 11 and force part of the postseason into November – and the prorated pay for a season of that length are issues MLB has so far been inflexible about with no signs of relenting.
But with MLB’s Monday offer countered so quickly by the union, will it provide the impetus to make concessions and reach an agreement and avoid MLB’s last resort: a 48-54-game season in which players will be paying their pro salaries?
MLB’s offer Monday was for a 76-game season in which players collectively would receive 50 percent of their salary, then an additional 25 percent if the postseason was played to its conclusion. The union, which has never come off its insistence on prorated pay, did not see that much of a concession because all players would be guaranteed to be half their prorated salaries.
MLB has contended it will lose too much addiional money by paying full prorated salaries over that many games, but that players would rather make more in total even with the cuts than full prorated over, say, a 50-game season. The union has contended it does not believe the financial distress MLB has portrayed and, to date, the players have stuck with the principle of receiving full salaries – even if they are less than could be made by taking a lower percentage over more games.
The union’s proposal would have a regular season run July 10-Oct. 11, the end coinciding roughly with when the NBA Finals would conclude, allowing baseball’s playoffs to avoid competing against the NBA playoffs and the NFL regular season.
Commissioner Rob Manfred told The Post on Monday that MLB’s medical authorities had insisted the league avoid extending into November for fear of colder weather increasing the odds of a stronger next wave of coronavirus. In addition, TV dates with broadcast partners are locked in for October and MLB is not sure the networks will want to try to find dates with a presidential election and a potential jammed sports landscape.
Where is there common ground?
The union proposal also calls for expanded playoffs and – if there are no or limited fans for the postseason this year – that the players will receive the same playoff pool allocation of $ 50 million as MLB offered Monday.
But a deal isn’t going to be made on those beachfronts. The big issue is pay followed by the length of the schedule, and the two are intertwined.
Manfred’s history is that he prefers not to impose what is within his power and would rather reach a deal with the union. But as time elapses to play games in the MLB window is willing to play – a regular season through Sept. 27 – There will come a point when Manfred plans to simply order a season that the owners are willing to play with pro salaries, which is in the 50-ish game region. As part of the March 26 agreement with the players association, Manfred has control of the schedule as long as the players are paid full salaries for the games played. The players would be obligated to play, but the inability to reach an accord would worsen this relationship (if it could get worse) and further disenchant fans.
That scenario is growing likelier, however, as the MLB and the union made offers and counteroffers within 24 hours this week, but moved inches toward each other when feet and probably yards were needed.