When there was no movement on the return of baseball over the weekend, there was hope that maybe the beginning of the week would bring something. And it did! Just not anything real useful.
MLB suggested a plan where the players get 75% of the pro-rata salaries over 76 games. Which, while not full pro-rata over 82 or more, was something. However, even if the players were open to something like that (which they aren’t), there was a fairly significant catch. If the playoffs don’t run through to their completion, the players would only get 50%. That definitely wasn’t going to fly, since the owners have been worried enough about a second wave to mandate there will be no regular season past the end of September.
Craig Edwards lined it out well in his Fangraphs article about the situation, comparing it to some of the other plans that have either been rumored or actually proposed by MLB. As you can see over there, this does have the highest possible outlay to players, but there’s a lot more risk involved. Plus the increase in the amount of work isn’t quite equal to the increase in pay. There are a few other things in there, notably the removal of draft pick compensation to (in theory) help the free agent market this winter–though picks or no, this is likely to be extremely dead as it relates to big contracts–and there’s also a requirement that players sign an agreement that they take on the health risk.
All in all, you can tell that this really didn’t move the needle for the players. The initial response from them on social media was to scoff and, as Jack Flaherty said, reiterate that the owners continue to sell the same thing in different packaging. Which is true in some regards–it seems like every plan has the players getting between 30-35% of their total contract for the year. Now, when you are dealing with numbers as big as these salaries, 5% can be real money, but the point remains. The owners know their price point and aren’t getting off of it. Which doesn’t bode well for an actual agreement.
Then there was this:
MLB’s latest proposal gave the union a deadline of Wednesday to reach agreement on a 76-game season. The inference: each few days is going to keep lowering the number of games believed possible by MLB until it gets to that 48-54 range for full prorated salaries.
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) June 8, 2020
If that’s true–and there’s no reason to think it’s not–it doesn’t really seem like the owners are willing to negotiate, more they are going to get their way and hope that the players jump at some point. Because negotiating would be the owners suggesting 50, the players saying 114, the owners saying 76, the players saying 92, and maybe there’s an agreement in the mid-80s. Now, it seems like 76 is the most we’d see and it’s going to work back down into that minuscule range that makes a season meaningless, plus doesn’t allow for expanded playoffs.
Also, let’s say they go this route. They give the players until Wednesday. They reject it and maybe offer something, maybe not. Probably means it’d be early next week before another owner’s proposal, reducing the games again. At this rate, it could be close to the end of June before they unilaterally impose the 48 game (let’s say) schedule.
Then you have to spend 10 days or so getting ready. Then they want probably three weeks for spring training. Which would mean an early August start might be the best and that also would probably fit well for the owners’ plan of 50ish games. Play in August and September, playoffs in October. It’s miserable for everyone else, but hey, the owners get their way. I’m sure nothing could be held in memory for next year’s CBA discussions about that.
Of course, that’s assuming the players don’t file a grievance, saying that the MLB didn’t uphold the March agreement by trying to play as many games as possible. While this weekend, the “We’re ready to play” mantra went around on social media, if it comes down to that, do the players swallow hard, hold a grudge, and play or do they feel obligated to file a grievance to protect the future, even while sacrificing 2020? You think people aren’t happy with the players now, imagine if it came down to that.
Now, perhaps they could hold it up on health grounds. After all, it looks like MLB hasn’t been in contact with state and local officials as much as it indicates it has, so those plans may not be fully developed. If the players hold the league to that, it might serve a lot of different purposes, the biggest being peace of mind about what kind of risks they are taking, but also a chip to bargain with.
Overall, it’s a mess. Same as it ever was.