CLEVELAND, Ohio — The good news is MLB owners made a proposal to the players on Monday to try and start a season that has been delayed since opening day because of the coronavirus.
It’s good news because after rejecting the players’ proposal that they play a 114-game season for all of their pro-rated salary last week, the owners said they would not make another proposal. Where there is conversation, there is a chance for a deal.
Here’s the thing. No matter what the players’ opinion of this offer is, both sides are running out of time. Not only are they running out of time to have at least a fingerhold on a respectable schedule, but they’re getting closer to having Commissioner Rob Manfred drop the hammer and order a 48-54 game season with every team that wins at least 10 games making the postseason. The postseason portion of the last sentence is not true, but who knows what will happen tomorrow or the next day?
A 48-52 game season would be like a slightly expanded Cactus or Grapefruit League spring-training season. They have to do better than that. But time is not on their side.
The owners latest proposal called for a 76-game season and an expanded playoff field that could go as high as 16 teams. The players proposed to expand the postseason to 14 teams in 2020 and 2021 in their 114-game proposal. For those in baseball withdrawal, there are only 30 teams in the big leagues.
The 76-game season would pay players 50% of the prorated salaries they agreed to take in a shortened season in a deal with the owners on March 26. The owners, of course, say that deal gives them the right to ask for more salary concessions from the players if games are played with no fans because of the virus.
The players do not interpret the deal that way, which is why it’s the second week of June and not one inning of baseball has been played. Wouldn’t you like to get the people who signed off on that deal in late March and send them back to high school English class where they could learn to write clear and concise sentences? How can such a pivotal detail to the entire season be open for so much debate?
Here’s how these negotiations have gone so far:
The owners talked about, but did not propose that the players share their revenues in the 2020 season. Then they offered them an 82-game season with a sliding pay scale that took a machete to the salaries of the highest paid players. Now, besides the 76-game season and 50% percent of their prorated pay, they are offering to pay all players 20% postseason bonuses, according to the Associated Press, from a pool of $200 million.
The total would represent 75% of the players prorated salaries, according to reports, if the postseason is played.
They have also proposed to drop qualifying offers and draft pick compensation for free agent this winter. That is not something to be sneered, especially since this free-agent class is expected to be damaged by team’s lost revenues because of the pandemic.
To the owners the postseason is vital. They will make between $800 million and $1 billion in broadcast contracts. That’s why they want to end the season in late September for fear of the coronavirus spiking again and erasing the postseason.
One more thing, the owners’ latest proposal comes with a Wednesday deadline. If we’ve learned anything over the years in negotiations between baseball owners and players, no one reacts well to a deadline. But this one comes with some teeth if either side wants to play a season that isn’t a joke.
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MLB offers 76-game season, up to 75% of salaries