We have been hearing the rumors for a few days now that Major League Baseball is acknowledging that they have the power to unilaterally determine the length of a 2020 season as long as they pay the players their already agreed upon prorated salaries. And with that threat has come the idea of a 50-60 game regular season, and then expanded playoffs. Well, this morning at ESPN, Jeff Passan notes that the season MLB would actually impose if they can’t get the players to take another pay cut could be as short as 48 games.

Now, as Passan notes, the owners are willing to pay prorated salary at 48 games and the players are willing to do so at 82 games (they actually said 114 games, but since that stretches into November, it’s never going to be on the table in reality).

Seeing as they would settle for a full pro rata at 1,230 total games, the projected losses from owners based on the $640,000-per-game figure is crucial for this exercise: $787,200,000. Compared to the projected losses owners would face in the 48-game season they’re ready to rubber-stamp, playing an 82-game season would cost $326,400,000 more.

And there you have it. Distilled to the simplest form, Major League Baseball is in crisis because of a $326 million problem.

That last sentence is key. There are ownership groups who, according to Passan, are not willing to take any more losses than they’ve already agreed to take and if the players aren’t willing to budge on their salary, it’s going to be an issue of a very short season. The players, too, don’t seem willing to budge on another concession in pay and that’s why it feels we’re in a situation where we struggle to find too much confidence. Obviously some of this is negotiation tactics 101, but for as close as the two seem to be, they seem to also be light years apart.

35 Responses

  1. Pablo

    When I saw this headline I thought it was some kind of cruel joke………alas it isn’t. I wish both sides would just shut up at this point.

  2. Hotto4Votto

    Not sure why fans would care about the results of a 48 game season. If you’re just jonesing for baseball watch the KBO. Not sure why the players would play such a short season with so many health risks on their end for a small amount of their contracts. This is especially true for players who’ve experienced significant career earnings. If a player opts out of playing, is their salary/contract carried over to the next season? If I were a player I’d be real tempted to punt on this season under this scenario.

    • Sliotar

      In a 48-game scenario, how about Jack Flaherty as an “opt out” example, in the other direction?

      Flaherty is in age 24 season… scheduled for a full-season salary of $604,500.
      He is the Cardinals best SP…right now.

      If the Cardinals don’t make him an extension offer (which they sure will) … Arb 1 next year, Flaherty “only” (no sure thing) has to negotiate the next 3 years with good health …

      then hit the free agent market at age 28. That’s a Gerrit Cole contract type of setup.

      Lots of pressure likely on Flaherty, from club, teammates, maybe even himself … to play in a 48-game season.

      But, if I was his agent or even his brother….might suggest he skip the paltry salary and 10 (or less) starts, take the service time and move on to 2021.

      • Hotto4Votto

        Good point about pre-arb guys (and probably third year arbitration players). Wouldn’t be financially beneficial for them to push FA and/or ARB back a season. So I see the incentive there. Gotta weigh the benefits of reaching better $ quicker vs the small amount of salary that would be paid out this year as well the health risks both from injuries (especially as a pitcher) and from exposure to the virus. It would be a tough decision in those scenarios.

      • Stock

        i am willing to bet it does not work that way. I think if games are played and a player decides to opt out that he does not gain a year of service time.

      • Redsvol

        This is the problem with the current MLB in a nutshell. Players – fueled by thoughts from their agents and other elitist, overpaid, salary guaranteed players drive careers toward service time and health. Does an NFL running back drafted in the 3rd round making 300K$ on a non-guaranteed contract think this way? NO! He is working his tail off to get opportunities and make the best of them so he gets noticed – and therefore a 2nd contract with real money. Why? – because he isn’t guaranteed a thing beyond this current year. This breeds intensity and leads to an exciting sport. Long guarantees, service time worries, and an endless regular season has stripped the life and intensity out of baseball.

        I love the game, but I’m sick and tired of the players feeling as though the owners owe them more than they reasonably should expect. 10 year guaranteed contracts – give me a break. Complaining about 6 figure annual contracts – give me another break. Most americans won’t make this in their entire working career.

  3. Tom Mitsoff

    It wouldn’t be my top choice, but I certainly would watch a short season — even one as short as 48 games. I need some real baseball, and I need to watch a Reds team that has a chance to compete for a title.

    • greenmtred

      I’d watch, too. We pay tremendous attention to 7-game post-season series, so why not 48 games? It might be wiser, practically, to skip it altogether, but the effect of that on the 2021 season–I refer to fan interest–is worth considering.

  4. vegastypo

    48 games would be even more of a sham season than I was fearing. I’m going to hope that’s merely for negotiating. … And as Tom said, I would watch as well, but to present 48 games as a legitimate season is really, really hollow.

  5. TR

    I wonder if the baseball powers on both sides realize this unending dithering is not good for the fans of the game? We’ve all come up with ways to fill our days with something other than baseball.

  6. Jim Walker

    If it is to be a 48 game “season” just call it and format it like what it is, a super tournament.

    Teams play a super round robin format within their own division (or whatever temporary divisions might be set up).

    Conveniently, 12 games vs each other team works out to 48 games with 5 teams in each division.

    Advance 6 teams in each league to a knockout round, i.e. the top 2 teams from each division with the top 2 teams in each league getting a bye.

  7. Bred

    The causal fan won’t watch or care about a 50 game schedule, and they may not return next year because they found other things to do. Next year is a question as no one knows what will happen with the virus. The following year may be tainted by a strike as both sides try to recoup lost $ in the new CBA. Baseball is in a tenuous situation over the next few years. I am a die hard fan, so I will watch, but I cannot say I will be all in as I usually am.

  8. Bill

    If those “pros” love and respect the game as much as they claim, then offer them the same “pay” that millions of Americans are now receiving. It’s time they realize that as entertainers they are not very entertaining.

    • Doug Gray

      If those owners were real Americans who cared about other Americans, they’d pay the players. As owners it’s time they realize that their job is to make sure the product exists.

  9. Stock

    Why is 16 games enough to determine the playoff teams in Football, 82 enough for Basketball and Hockey, 50 or so games enough for NCAA baseball, 30+ enough for college basketball and 11 enough for college football but 48 is clearly too few for ML Baseball.

    I have always thought the baseball season was too long. I am sure the casual fan does also. I have always felt the casual fan doesn’t watch Pro Baseball, basketball and Hockey until playoff time because the seasons are too long. If the season ends after 48 games last year 9 of the 10 playoff teams are the same.

    • Gonzo Reds

      They answer to your question is that SP are such a big part of the game and only pitch every 5 days. Imagine the NFL teams all having to use 4 QB’s once every 4 games. Just takes many more games to really get a feel for how good each MLB team is.

      I’m happy with half a season of 80 or 82 games but nothing less. But… given what the Reds have invested towards competing this year (after suffering through the last few seasons) I want to play no matter what as we really should be a playoff game with this current roster. Make the playoffs and with this rotation we can get hot and run the table. I’ll buy just as many world champion hats and shirts as I would for a full season and wear them proudly.

    • Scott

      It was actually 8 of 10. Yeah, but one of those teams? Yep, the Washington Nationals (the other Oakland, just barely missing). A strong argument exists that over more games a team can put it all together and come up from the ashes and win. 19-29 after 48 games, 93-69 after 162. Is it a grind? Yes. But there are enjoyable games all through a 162 game season and there are duds in the playoffs. The bottom line is that as fans, we enjoy the game whenever it is played. Can there be less games in the future? Sure, but baseball has always been a game of grinding it out over time. In the future they could play probably as few as 78 games and have it still mean something (12 against each division opponent and 3 games vs each remaining league team and get rid of interleague) and you’d get a more intense “every game counts” mentality, but you would have less revenue for all. I think many fans still enjoy knowing they can go to a baseball game almost any day between late March and late September instead of only maybe a few times a week, or for a much shortened calendar period. Although with no competition from other major sports (NFL, NBA, NHL) from like mid-June to early September a 78 game season could fit in that slot and be played every day. I’m a traditionalist, so I prefer at least a 154 game schedule as they have played for a century (since 1920), but recognize that the world changes and evolves, so even if a much shorter season is adopted at some point in the near future, I will still be involved for the duration.

  10. RedNat

    the other leagues are following the nba so i predict a 60 game schedule starting at the end of July with fans in the stands. the end of july is when the cdc predicts cases will really be minimal in this country. ideally playoffs/ world series would be over by late october before a second wave and flu season.

    2021 may be pushed back some with abbreviated schedule too . maybe a 100 games. the least amount of games , the better from a safety standpoint until this virus is finally gone

    • Scott

      Except that viruses are never gone. Viruses were on Earth probably since almost the beginning and long before any animals and will be here long after we’re gone (maybe the reason we go extinct) and will be here for billions of years until the Sun loses it’s fuel and goes cold. Viruses may still survive even then, only finally ceasing to exist when the reverse Big Bang occurs and the universe implodes in on itself as scientists predict. We just may as well get the season started and let fans into the stands!

  11. Old-school

    In the court of public opinion, the players now hold the edge. Rob Manfred is a poor commissioner.
    This would never happen with Adam Silver. Rob Manfred is blatantly compromising the integrity of the game of baseball using a 48 game farce of a schedule as leverage in a public food fight to beat the players in a money-grab. For what ??? 30 games per season in 1 historically awful year? That’s not leadership. That’s lawyering.

    The players union should say we planned on an 81 game season at 1/2 salary starting July 4 and we’re ready to go now. If the owners want to lock us out, that’s their choice.

    • Jim Walker

      At least part of Manfred’s issue is dissonance among the owners. He (and a number of organizations) may well be closer to the players’ position than they are to the position of a significant number of the other owners for all we can tell.

      If I were guessing from the various leaks and rumors, I’d say there are some organizations that don’t want to play at all just as there are apparently players who feel that way. Then there are other organizations who can’t wait to get underway. And probably the bulk of them scattered at varying positons between the 2 extremes.

      • Old-school

        Eliminate the Marlins and start a franchise in Puerto Rico.
        Eliminate the Ray’s and start a franchise in Monterey Mexico. Eliminate the Pirates and A’s. It’s unconscionable that owners of a franchise don’t want to play. Latin America would go crazy and the baseball footprint would grow.

  12. BK

    My proposal would be to play an 82-game season with an expanded 16 – team playoff. Round 1 is a best of 3 series where the #1 and #2 seeded teams each start up by one game). Prorated salaries as follows:

    Assuming no fans in the stand:
    – 82 game season started, but not completed: players get no more than 30 percent of their prorated salaries (essentially MLB owners starting offer)
    – 82 games season completed with no fans, but playoffs are not completed: players get 35 percent of their prorated salaries)
    – 82 game season; playoffs fully completed: players get 46 percent of their prorated salaries–this essentially splits the current difference between Owner and MLBPA)

    Fans in the stands.
    – Build a formula based on the total capacity ‘open’ for fans in the stands. For every percentage of capacity that results in fan attendance for the duration of the regular season, players add another percentage of their prorated salaries. In other words, just 4 percent of capacity is filled gets MLBPA to the 50 percent March agreement.
    – Playoffs at neutral sites where fans are allowed. Players get 70 percent of fan-derived revenue for the playoffs)

    Shared risk … shared reward! Playball!

    • ClevelandRedsFan

      If both sides truly are committed to playing, this type of proposal should absolutely work and be the compromise. MLB and MLBPA need to lock themselves in a virtual meeting until this is resolved. Enough with the posturing and negotiation tactics. It’s hurting both sides more than it’s helping as they’re losing fans by the day.

      • TR

        How much money is dominant. Losing fans is under the radar.

      • BK

        Fans = money. Nearly 40 percent of MLB revenue is earned on gameday. TV contracts also derive their value from fans based on market size and ratings (BTW, the Reds do well in the ratings department).

        MLB, and I mean both Owners and Players, have missed a huge opportunity to get on the field first and display a spirit of unity at a time when our nation (and their primary market) would have been very receptive. Instead of minimizing losses and building towards a better future, they’ve both played the blame game. This season will go down as a historic whiff.

      • Colorado Red

        BK,

        What what I have read on MLBTR, it is about 27%,
        Owners are risking there franchises, fan may soon say enough is enough.
        I would suggest neither side should kill the goose, that is laying the golden egg.

      • TR

        Pro baseball has missed a chance to take a big step in regaining the title, the national pastime.

  13. Trey

    While I do think 48 games would be a sad statement for baseball, I do want some baseball. The 48 games would be similar to a college regular season and the legitimacy of those championship seasons aren’t in question. I know some say apples to oranges with comparing college to a pro 162 game season. I do think seasons feel long (not complaining these days), but how exciting would each and every game/late inning be in a short season.

  14. CFD3000

    48 games, or anything less than half a season, would be hugely disappointing. This isn’t just about 2020 either. MLB will take a huge hit in attendance and fan interest if they play such a short schedule. Over $11M per team (if that number is even valid)? Embarrassing. Wake up and get it done, owners. Do not be so penny wise and pound foolish.

  15. Redsvol

    The sport I love is broken, and deserves to fail. Some things aren’t worth saving in their present form and I think major league baseball has reached that point. One only has to look at the responses from the NBA and NFL to the coronavirus. Both of those leagues -players and owners – have been “chomping at the bit” to resume their schedules. MLB? They have to negotiate every little bit of painstakingly slow progress. The players whine about showers and spitting and potential exposure.

    I am usually not on the side of the owners but in this case I am. The player representatives and their agents are elitist fools to not comprehend the new reality. They have no concept of what is going on with their sport or in the american public. Now that basketball will take up most of the summer and the NFL will start pre-season workouts in a couple months, hardly anyone will even notice the MLB.

    I sincerely hope the owners take this time to break the union, establish a salary cap on the NBA model, eliminate long term guaranteed contracts and re-make major league baseball the way it was meant to be. The players and their agents have become an elite class of athletes who care less about their sport or their fans. I would much prefer minor league baseball restart but care less about MLB.

    • greenmtred

      It really isn’t unreasonable to worry about exposure to a potentially fatal virus. Close, prolonged exposure increases the risk, even for young and healthy people. This is not an essential occupation.

  16. ClevelandRedsFan

    This is what scares me. If MLB pushes for the 50-game schedule, players might try to block the expanded playoffs. 50-games is a joke. But, blocking the expanded playoffs is the feared step toward mutual destruction. Free agency money will dry up significantly if all or most owners lose a lot of money this year.

    I fear each side may become more interested in hurting the other than helping itself.
    https://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/ny-mlb-restart-coronavirus-20200606-n5smr4trkzhojjap62z7v4khs4-story.html

  17. Steven Nelson

    Totally the wrong direction, from my standpoint. Baseball outcomes are so dependent on luck that playoffs (especially 1 or 3 game series) are essentially random and meaningless. But it seems that the owners are interested ONLY in the playoffs, at the expense of everything else. I’d rather re-align and eliminate the first rounds of playoffs and let ALL teams get another 10 games to to play to determine a true champion. I support the players, who wanted a 100+ game season.