The Major League Baseball Players Association is finished playing games with regards to negotiating with the owners of the 30 teams in Major League Baseball. They have essentially told MLB that they don’t feel they are negotiating with any actual faith and that they are done, and that MLB needs to just tell them how many games they will be playing this year and when and where the players need to show up to begin the season. Here’s the statement from the MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark:

Players want to play. It’s who we are and what we do.

Since March, the Association has made it clear that out No.1 focus is playing the fullest season possible, as soon as possible, as safely as possible. Players agreed to billions in monetary concessions as a means to that end, and in the face of repeated media leaks and misdirection we made additional proposals to inject new revenues into the industry – proposals that would benefit the owners, players, broadcast partners, and fans alike.

It’s now become apparent that these efforts have fallen upon deaf ears. In recent days, owners have decried the supposed unprofitability of owning a baseball team and the Commissioner has repeatedly threatened to schedule a dramatically shortened season unless players agree to hundreds of millions in further concessions. Our response has been consistent that such concessions are unwarranted, would be fundamentally unfair to players, and that our sport deserves the fullest 2020 season possible. These remain our positions today, particularly in light of new reports regarding MLB’s national televisions rights- information we requested from the league weeks ago but were never provided.

As a result, it unfortunately appears that further dialogue with the league would be futile. It’s time to get back to work. Tell us when and where.

There’s a lot going on here. If you missed the news earlier today, which Clark references in the statement, Turner Sports and MLB agreed to a new playoff deal. That deal is worth $1,000,000,000 – first reported by Andrew Marchand of the New York Post. The previous deal was worth $350,000,000. The deals weren’t for the same length, but the new deal is still worth 40% more per year than the previous deal was.

But let’s also talk about what it appears that the MLBPA is attempting to force MLB to do here. As you have probably heard by now, Commissioner Rob Manfred has the power to implement a season as long as the players get their prorated pay. The threat has been that he would do that and possibly have a 48 or 50 game schedule if the players weren’t willing to take less pay for more games. As we’ve noted many times here (and others have also noted in other publications), MLB has basically offered the same exact salary to the players every single proposal they’ve made and it’s always been nearly identical to what the players would get for a 50 game season where they were paid their prorated salary.

The players are now just telling MLB to implement the schedule. The “force their hand” part has a reason to it, too. As a part of the agreement the two sides made in March that the owners have been trying to renegotiate their way out of, one stipulation is that MLB would play as many games as possible. A 50 game schedule right now would in no way meet that standard, and if MLB tries it, the players will file a grievance that they would almost assuredly win given that such a schedule that started a month from now and ending on September 27th – the day in which all of the previous MLB proposals have had the regular season ending – would have as many off days as a full 162 game schedule does.

The players are forcing the owners to either pay them their prorated salaries for a short schedule and then go to court over the agreed upon contract, or to just set a longer schedule and pay them their prorated contracts. The players tried to make some concessions. But the owners really didn’t – they offered a 50-cent piece the first time. Then they offered two quarters, followed up by an offer for four dimes and two nickels, and finally just offered ten nickels.

According to Jeff Passan of ESPN, the MLBPA demands that MLB makes a decision and informs them of it by the end of business on Monday, June 15th. Hold onto your butts, folks, this is going to get really interesting.

38 Responses

  1. REDSMAN

    So, the players are agreeing to ‘kick the Can down the road’ until the negotiations for the next CBA begin. As someone else noted, that is shaping up to be a WWIII scenario!

    Hopefully Manfred/owners, can get out of their own way long enough to actually impose a date and a number in order to get some baseball going on. Like tomorrow please! I have had about enough of the KBO, ‘classic’ games, goat replays, et al. Time for the real deal!

    Any possibility that aforementioned, CBA doesn’t result in another strike? Please, please, please, say it ain’t so…I fear that would be the straw that finally breaks the camels back.

    • Doug Gray

      I’ve been saying for two years now that I expect a lockout or a strike. Enjoy the next two seasons.

      • Colorado Red

        Season and a quarter as the case may be.

      • Doug Gray

        Season and a third, at least. Lol.

  2. Klugo

    Love it. Play Ball!!
    It’ll be interesting to see how many games The Manfred Season will be.

  3. Jim Walker

    This is a great strategic and tactical move by MLBPA. Now the onus is on the owners to work out their internal differences without the cover of the players as a foil to shift blame onto.

    As has been speculated about on other platforms, if the owners lowball the number of games, the door is open for the players to file a grievance that the owners did not make their best effort to play as many games as possible as was called for in the March agreement. The process could eventually end up with the owners forced to open their books, the one thing they seem to want to avoid most of all.

  4. vegastypo

    I guess I still don’t understand why Manfred wouldn’t consider taking the latest MLB offer and imposing that one on the players. If the owners were willing to pay the players for 72 games as they proposed, then go ahead and do it. Or was that just a way for the owners to stall the process — expecting more counterproposals — until there is only enough time left for a 48-game season after all?

    The players are done trying to negotiate, but at least a 72-game season might be more palatable for fans than 48 or whatever, some very tiny bit of consideration from the owners instead of the “nuclear option.” A two-month “season” just seems so ridiculous.

    Especially with the 2021 storm clouds already forming.

    • vegastypo

      Actually, was reading from a previous thread and now understand the money reference, paying a “full” prorated share of the salary vs. negotiating to perhaps allow for more games but insisting on only a percentage of the prorated share.

      Would still rather see more than a two-month season, but I can better see why that is what we are headed for.

  5. CallowayPost

    I love the duality of claiming owning a team isn’t profitable and actively trying to make the very people who ARE the team, who put fans in the seats in the first place, and the reason why fans tune in at home, in a position to look greedy….WHILE negotiating a billion dollar deal for the broadcast rights of those games. Tell me you can’t afford to pay me what I’m owed for playing a game, while knowing you’re about to cash in big time for me playing the game.

    All of this being done at the same time. The balls it takes to send a low ball offer with one hand, while the other is signing a contract with a whole bunch of zeroes on it.

    MLB loves structuring contracts to make the biggest money be paid at the end, with many times deferring those payments for years and years. But sacrificing some of the huge profit you know you were getting, while crying poor, truly makes you look like the greedy capitalists you are. Cashing in on the players and fans passion for baseball by making us squirm, while making deals to televise it. It’s moving into scum territory.

  6. renbutler

    It would be nice to see a more even-handed analysis of what happened.

    • Jim Walker

      Difficult to be more even handed when the owners won’t show their cards (open the books).

      They say they need to modify the terms of the March agreement for financial reasons; but, want that assertion accepted at face value.

      The agreement also says both sides will make their best efforts to play as many games as possible. The owners’ behavior strongly suggests they are also trying to fudge on that count.

      • Jim Walker

        I understand that with CBA negotiations on the horizon following the 2021 season, owners are reticent about just opening their books to the PA.

        However, what about an arrangement for with an impartial 3rd party to see the books. This person could act as a cross checker and mediator by fact checking owner (and player) claims.

      • Sliotar

        Doug Gray wrote ….

        “the players will file a grievance that they would almost assuredly win”

        LOL. OK, sure.

        I understand “Comply and Grieve”… have several retired union officials in my family … never knew before that really meant “Comply, Grieve and Automatically Win.”

        Who knows what documentation or mutally acknowledged conversations will come out in a hearing… that we don’t know of yet?

  7. Melvin

    The selfish greed of the owners is disgusting. It’s also sickening what they’re willing to do to baseball as a whole; players, fans, etc., the American pastime. After what this country has been through it’s pretty much unbelievable in a way and extremely obvious that they only care about themselves. We could be half way through a second spring training and just about ready to start but instead they just want to play mind games.

    • Don

      Just look what they are doing to minor league baseball, that tells one all they need to know about MLB owners and caring for the longevity of baseball and baseball fans.

    • TR

      The baseball scenario of the past three months makes me increasingly prone to take MLB, and other pro sports for that matter, in passing. The pleasure of being a fan has been diluted by bickering

    • Old-school

      Good move by the players.
      Manfred now has to find a number far away enough from 81 and 72 games which he has rejected, but not too close to 48 games or risk an obvious grievance.

      I’ll predict a 60 game schedule at full prorated pay and with 8 playoff teams per league. Can’t think the players would reject an expanded postseason.

  8. IndyRedsFan

    I know I’m in the minority here, but I can’t agree that all the blame falls on the owners.

    1) The current salary structure is based on revenue from both TV and gate. Not one player would have the contract he has today if there were not both streams of revenue.
    It seems only common sense that in a year where there is a global health crisis, the players would agree to adjust their salaries for one season to reflect the reality that revenue is less.

    2) So many of you talk about the owners “reneging” on the March agreement. I don’t see it.
    The Players Association signed a deal that said they would “negotiate in good faith the economic feasibility of playing games in the absence of fans.”

    Question…..if that clause doesn’t mean negotiating salaries….then what does it mean?

    In my view it’s the players association that hasn’t negotiated in good faith. They have stuck to “we want our full salary for every game played”, and have not suggested ANY alternatives.

    3) They outrighted dismissed the revenue sharing proposal. Again, this seemed like a perfectly logical way to go in a season with so many unknowns.

    I wouldn’t have expected them to accept the first proposal, but negotiating in good faith would have meant at least not rejecting it outright.

    Ie………they could have said, “we can’t live with 50/50, but we’ll do 75 (players) 25 owners…..and by the way, we want that to apply to the postseason revenue as well as the regular season revenue”. (or 90/10, or whatever)

    4) In my view, the real problem here is Tony Clarke. He negotiated a crappy deal for the players last time…..and this time, he’s not even tried to negotiate, he’s just tried (and succeeded) in initiating a p-ing contest.

    He is the one who hasn’t taken a long term view. He could have even used this negotiation to obtain some long term concessions in favor of the players, but simply refused to negotiate at all.

    His approach is only going to lead to more downside for the players long term.

    • CFD3000

      I agree that the players bear some responsibility for this stalemate, even though I’m on the “Blame the Owners” side of this. But the players want to play more baseball, the owners want to play less. As a fan, that’s a fundamental problem. And I suspect the players would have budged on prorated pay, but not from 100% per game to as little as 50%. If the Owners had said “we’ve done pretty well in years past, so we’re okay taking a hit this year in the interests of the game and our fans” I’d have some sympathy, but they’ve never acknowledged their past profits have been. Again, a problem for me. If the owners had said “80 games, 80% prorated pay per game” then that’s a good faith offer. Never happened. I’m still much more upset with Owners than I am with players – at least the players have offered to play more games, which as a fan is what I really care about.

    • AllTheHype

      I agree with your analysis. I’m on the owners side here. MLBPA insisting on 100% pro-rated salary is ludicrous considering no gate, concessions, or game day team shop sales.

      70% of pre-rated salaries is more than generous.

  9. ClevelandRedsFan

    @IndyRedsFan

    I agree with you on the players sharing some blame. However, Tony Clark represents the players and not the entire game. They’re free to choose whomever they want to represent them.

    I don’t appreciate his style of brinkmanship and essentially sticking to one issue, dying on the hill. I believe players best chance to maximize their 2020 salaries (and future benefits) was to negotiate the last deal. Owners came in with roughly 80% and 83% and best case scenario. Players should have countered 95% and the two could have settled somewhere in the 87-92% range. That’s a pretty good deal for the players when owners are losing, what has been reported to be, 40% of their revenue. That is also a lot more money than the full salaries at 50 games.

    Additionally, owners offered removing the compensation pick for signing free agents. That’s a HUGE win for the MLBPA. MLBPA could have countered to keep that removed, universal DH for several years, no more service time manipulation, etc.

    MLBPA essentially negotiated itself out of a better deal with more money by refusing to negotiate. Owners are getting the exact financial situation they want without providing any additional benefits.

    Also, the umpires saw the same books the players did and negotiated about a 30% cut in salary. They thought that was reasonable based on the situation.

  10. Steven Duncan

    Not sure who is at fault, but what I do know is that if there is a strike in 2021 after this fiasco. Baseball as we know it is done. I won’t be watching again. And I really don’t think baseball will recover. There are too many other options with College Football, NFL, NBA, NHL and College Basketball. I don’t think I would be alone in this opinion either. So if the owners and players want a strike have at it, but the owners will essentially be destroying the businesses they built and the players will be forced to play in Japan for pennies on the dollar. Good luck. Meanwhile I’ll
    Be enjoying watching my Bucks and Bengals on Saturday’s and Sunday’s.

    • TR

      And ML soccer is coming on fast in America with a franchise in Cincinnati. If baseball continues this mess from 2021 onward, many young people will turn to soccer. Not good for the future of MLB.

  11. Hotto4Votto

    Neither side is blameless. Both could have made some (more) concessions for the good of the game. I have long maintained that when the players and owners fight it’s the fans that will suffer. We see that coming to forefront now.
    But in my view the owners are more at fault. They’re not negotiating in good faith by coming back with the same offer dressed up differently three different times. They’re not acknowledging the record profits over the past few years (while overall payroll has not increased) and at the same time trying to say that their business isn’t profitable. If it’s not that profitable then get out of it. Someone else will buy your team. If it’s not profitable they’re very stupid businessmen/owners tying up so much capitol in a business that’s not that profitable. I don’t think they’re stupid, . The owners have been very disingenuous, misleading, and dishonest throughout this whole process.

    I’m getting to the point that I don’t care, especially if baseball is going to do this again at the end of 2021. Hoping the NBA can continue on at the end of July without a hitch.

    • VaRedsFan

      Don’t look know, but Kyrie “the earth is flat” Irving is trying to sabotage the season. “I can’t play because of the protests are going on”

      • Hotto4Votto

        I saw that. Kyrie seems to be on his own frequency most of the time, but some others agree with him now. I saw where Austin Rivers responded and made some sense. As a longtime, big Carolina fan it bugs me to have to agree with Rivers, but here we are in 2020, what an odd time.

  12. Sliotar

    @Hotto4Votto wrote ….

    “….especially if baseball is going to do this again at the end of 2021.”

    Yep.

    I firmly believe Tony Clark is bad at his job … maybe MLB Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem is, too … and maybe both should be removed from negotiating the 2021 CBA.

    Trying to have all the same parties negotiate a CBA, after the “bad blood” of the last few months is madness, IMO.

  13. Big Ed

    I think timing issues will force a deal shortly. Some random points:

    1. The owners have the right, after negotiating in good faith, to impose a 48-game schedule, with “pro rata” pay and the same post-season as before. The players believe that the March agreement gives them the right, after negotiating in good faith, to insist on full “pro rata” pay for 82 games (if not more). Any deal in between those positions can be reached, if negotiated. Bargaining “in good faith” imposes an obligation on neither side to actually reach an agreement, but instead just to work toward one, which as of now they have both done. Good faith negotiations involve many variables, particularly with the safety issues peculiar to this year. Thus, any grievance about not negotiating in good faith will not be a slam dunk in arbitration, no matter who brings it.

    2. The players need to be careful what they wish for about “opening the books.” The books are going to utterly suck at the end of 2020, and they may not show what the players want or expect them to show. Further, “generally accepted accounting principles” can be broadly interpreted, and the players and owners aren’t going to agree what “the books” say even if they are opened. But an average team will lose 2 million fans this year, at (conservatively) a net loss of $30/seat, and their revenues will be off $60 million on attendance alone, plus loss of a big portion of local and national TV rights (including MLB package rights). OTOH, the average team will not spend about $65 million in players’ salaries, but not much else. The “open books” are going to show an industry in distress.

    3. The ballyhooed new television deal works out to $5 million/year more for each team, over and above what they were already getting for that chunk of the playoffs. That is a fourth outfielder.

    4. The players’ hammer, it seems to me, is the safety issue. If they don’t like what MLB imposes, and they can’t work out a compromise, then the nuclear option is to declare, just as the playoffs start, that the second wave of COVID-19 makes it unsafe for them to play further, and there would be no playoffs. MLB would lose most or not all of its playoff money. It wouldn’t take much to justify that decision: “Hey, there is an uptick in cases in LA County; we can’t risk the health and lives of our players and their families.” If MLB thinks that Tony Clarke won’t do that, it is incorrect.

    5. I still think that the MLBPA ought to consider contracting their players’ services to another, new organization, and not to MLB. A league that would start in 2021 and be a joint venture between the MLBPA and a big, big player like Google, Amazon and/or Facebook, all of which need content, would not be impossible to pull off.

    6. The big impediment to ironing out a deal is that human beings lose 30 IQ points just by being hired to negotiate for either MLB or the MLBPA.

    players’ hammer is covid

    • ClevelandRedsFan

      First and foremost, as a baseball fan, #4 is what truly scares me. The March agreement doesn’t guarantee an expanded postseason. The players actually have to agree to that.

      There are a few questions that come into play with them accepting/rejecting that agreement.
      1. Standings: Right now, MLB wants to extend from 5 teams to 7 or 8. Let’s say the Washington Nationals are the 6th best team in the NL before playoffs start. Is Max Scherzer, the Nationals player rep, going to block his own team from getting into the playoffs?

      What if the Nationals are in spots 1-5, and he tries to block the expanded playoffs? Other players will assume he just wants an easier postseason for his team. Players won’t have the unity on this front and it will be hard for them to be unbiased, as each player’s vote can easily influence his team’s chance at winning a World Series.

      2. Impact on free agency: There is no salary floor in MLB. There should be. Without expanded playoffs, owners will lose money this year. They will seek to recoup those costs by avoiding free agency or offering lower offers. Guys like Mookie Betts are going to feel the decrease big time. MLBPA always negotiates for higher free agency deals and salaries. The question here is how deep is the players’ hatred for the owners? Mutual destruction indeed. I can’t imagine hating someone so much that I’m willing to take myself down with them.

      Perhaps that’s why I work in online marketing and I’m not a professional athlete.

    • Redsvol

      you make some good points….and a couple bad ones.
      on any arbitration process; You can be sure MLB has first class lawyers who have documented all their negotiating efforts with MLBPA – who won’t win a grievance due to this fact.
      on the business aspect; MLB’s books are going to look terrible. Any business’s would when they lose 40% of revenue yet still have the same payroll expense. Fans whine that the owners should just suck it up and pay it. Why should they be wholly responsible? The new Turner deal is not that much better on a per team basis.
      And no, starting a new league is not feasible – AAF and XFL have proven it is ridiculously hard to compete with established major sports leagues.
      on health; People are weary of COVID 19 changes. Players would face huge backlash if they use skeptical information as reasons to not play when other leagues are showing it can be done. But then again, MLBPA doesn’t seem to mind looking like fools.

      • Michael Smith

        @redsvol.

        Except they are going to have less than half their payroll expenses

      • Big Ed

        I’m not talking about a competing league. Instead of the MLBPA’s signing an extension of its deal with MLB at the end of 2021, the MLBPA should at least the explore a contract with a new group of owners. Every MLBPA player would play in the new league, and MLB would be left with guys under minor league contracts.

        It would certainly open a pallet’s worth of cans of worms. How does the new league pay Mike Trout, etc.? What will the teams be called? Who will own the franchises, and will players get a cut? What to do about cities with stadiums owned by MLB teams, like Boston, Chicago (NL), Los Angeles, etc.? Instead of scab players, there would be scab owners, or a group willing to joint-venture with the players.

        If nothing else, it would jar both sides out of their complacency and make them realize that the other side brings a lot to their partnership. The owners would learn that they are not in the monopoly position that they thought they were in, and the players would learn that the owners have an intangible but economically real asset known as “good will.”

        I understand that it is very unlikely to happen, but the MLBPA at least ought to think about it.

  14. Jon

    It seems as though the issue of where games would be played if/when the season begins has been ignored lately. Has that been settled in any way yet? Last I knew there were several ideas being floated- a 2-state plan involving Florida/Arizona; a 3-state plan adding Texas; playing at home ballparks where allowable; or possibly realigning divisions for 2020 to play in home ballparks with the AL/NL Easts, Centrals, and Wests forming their own divisions. If MLB ends up with teams playing games in their home ballparks, that means that opposing teams will obviously have to travel to those games. Is there any reason at this point why fans wouldn’t be able to attend games at those parks in a reduced capacity situation? If a stadium can hold 40,000+ people, opening the stadium to 33% or 50% capacity while promoting social distancing would make up a good chunk of teams’ lost revenues. Teams could open up seating areas to general admittance rather than assigned seats. They could also justify charging increased prices for tickets due to supply and demand. If theme parks, restaurants, movie theaters, and retail stores are able to operate, why not ballparks? The issue the players are rightfully concerned about is player health, but unless they choose the 2-state or 3-state plan, they will be frequently traveling, staying in hotels, renting cars, eating out, etc.

  15. Mitch

    I think the biggest issue they are all missing is the fans. We are the people that matter if you don’t figure this out and go on strike in a little over a year I’m pretty sure I will be done watching the sport. I go to a minimum of 20 games a year in at least 5 different stadiums. If getting on the field for the fans is not top priority than they all have forgotten wheat is truly important. They have already done enough to change the game to put the loyal fans on the edge of the seats to walk away from the game. Do they not realize how close they are to losing the biggest part of the game, us the fans.

  16. RedFan

    I think it’s going to be 65 games as that is how many games were scheduled to be after the AS break anyway or starting around a July 17th start which seems doable with a 3 week spring training if players report in 7-10 days.

  17. REDSMAN

    Good insight Jon…and you are correct. Where games are played, and whether or not fans are in attendance are BIG questions, the answers to which will determine how bad the books will look when all is said and done. Considering all the protests/riots, lawsuits and threatened lawsuits, it could just be that by the time we actually see games being played there may well be fans in GABP. I certainly hope so and I know we are all looking forward to that possibility.

    The concerns over health issues, etc seem to be quickly melting into the background as things progress. But if the ‘2nd wave’, and/or others follow suit, well, all bets are off. At that point we would be looking at a whole new deal where MLB, NFL, NCAAF, etc, etc, will all become minor issues. There truly are more important things than sports…but sports, and for me personally, baseball, are pretty far up that list. Here’s hoping that the sensible players and their leaders that reached this latest decision are able to prevail in negotiations for the next CBA, and that the owners get their heads out of…

    All of this, of course, assuming that someone finally gets a handle on this pandemic!

  18. Tom Reeves

    I propose a 54 game season with three, 10 team divisions. Each team plays the other 9 teams in their division in one home 3-game series and one away 3-game series. They don’t play teams outside their division in the regular season to reduce travel distances.

    The 3 teams with the best records, plus one wildcard team, plays 2 rounds of playoffs. The second round is the WS.

    This gives baseball the best chance of playing a season and crowning a champion before the fall wave of COVID 19 cases.

    (Btw, that will be the owners trump card in the arbitration. It’s not just when the season starts that’s a constraint, it’s also when the season ends. Trying to extend games into the fall is risky and there’s no way to accurate predict that risk. The best way to fit the season in is to do it in a compressed timeframe.)

    So, under the 54 game schedule, there are games Tuesday-Sunday, with Mondays off (or for makeup games). This allows the 54 game season to be played in 9 weeks plus 2 weeks of playoffs.

    From a travel perspective, there’s no coast to coast travel, which helps a lot.

    This schedule would begin on Tuesday, July 21st the World Series would be approximately the first week of October (if the first round of play offs goes to 5 games).

    That should be before the start of flu season and hopefully a second wave of COVID 19.