In a statement Saturday night, MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark indicated the players were rejecting the proposal MLB made Friday for a 72-game season, for which players would have been guaranteed 70 percent of their prorated salaries, and would make no counterproposal. In fact, Clark said, the players were done negotiating — period.
“Further dialogue with the league would be futile,” Clark said in the statement. “It’s time to get back to work. Tell us when and where.”
MLB responded with a statement of its own later Saturday, saying the players have “chosen not to negotiate in good faith over resumption of play,” and adding, “We will evaluate the Union’s refusal to adhere to the terms of the March agreement, and after consulting with ownership, determine the best course to bring baseball back to our fans.”
Baseball has long appeared headed toward this outcome, with Commissioner Rob Manfred, as outlined in the March 26 agreement between the sides governing the terms of the sport’s shutdown, holding the power to dictate the terms of the 2020 schedule in the absence of a second agreement over economic terms. MLB will be required to pay players their full, prorated salaries for 2020, based on the number of games played.
In a series of proposals and counterproposals beginning in late May, the sides made attempts to bridge their differences over 2020 salaries. The players believe they are entitled to their full, prorated salaries, as outlined in the March agreement; MLB contends a different economic calculus is required, given that this season will be played mostly or completely without fans, depriving teams of in-stadium revenue.
“Players remain united in their stance that a day’s work is worth a day’s pay,” Bruce Meyer, the union’s lead negotiator, wrote in a letter to MLB on Saturday. “Given your continued insistence on hundreds of millions of dollars in additional pay reductions, we assume these negotiations are at an end.”
In his letter, Meyer demanded MLB set the terms of the 2020 season and inform players by the close of business Monday.
“If it is your intention to unilaterally impose a season, we again request that you inform us and our members of how many games you intend to play and when and where players should report,” the letter read. “It is unfair to leave players and the fans hanging at this point.”
MLB has indicated it is willing, in the absence of a deal, to use its power to set the terms of the 2020 season, floating the idea of a 48- to 54-game season. With the sport now seemingly headed toward that default option, the schedule probably will be revealed in the coming days, with players soon convening for a condensed, second spring training — which would last about three weeks — ahead of Opening Day in mid- to late July.
The New York Post reported earlier Saturday that MLB consummated a new TV rights deal with Turner Sports that would keep one of its league championship series on the network. The newspaper, citing unidentified sources, reported that exact contract terms were not known, but they were expected to be “a substantial increase from the $350 million per season that Turner had been paying.”
In his statement, Clark referenced “new reports regarding MLB’s national television rights” in citing why the union believes further pay concessions “would be fundamentally unfair.” Players were more blunt on social media: “But baseball is dying!” Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Andrew McCutchen tweeted sarcastically.
As a result of the impasse, the union is expected to withdraw its support for an expanded, 16-team postseason. The union also might file a grievance that challenges MLB’s move, contending it failed in its obligation to make a good-faith effort to play as many games as possible.
Before the season can begin, the sides still must reach agreement on the health and safety protocols for playing in a pandemic. MLB has contended the postseason must wrap up before the end of October, out of fears a second wave of the coronavirus in the fall could cut short or cancel the postseason.
The impasse over the economic terms for 2020 brings baseball’s labor relations to their lowest point since the player strike of 1994-95 and portends an epic, ugly fight in 2021 over the terms of a new collective bargaining agreement.
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