Major League Baseball reportedly offered the MLB Players Association a deal for a 154 game schedule, at full pay, but with a delayed start to the season. This was first reported by Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports. The offer would also include expanded playoffs. Brown notes that the players are considering the plan. Jared Diamond of The Wall Street Journal reported that this offer would also include the designated hitter in the National League. Diamond’s reporting also notes that the expanded playoffs would mean 14 teams make the playoffs.

Update

The players association is expected to reject the proposal according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

Second Update

Maury Brown of Forbes is reporting that the pay would be for 162 games for the 154 game season, but if games were to be cancelled that the players would not be paid for those games – something that has not been the case in the past. This agreement, too, gives MLB the right to cancel games.

Original article continues below.

There’s a lot going on here, so let’s try to look at it step-by-step. A 154 game schedule isn’t that far off of from a regular, full season. Major League Baseball played a full 154-game season for a very long time before expanding things to 162 games.

With that said, the season would be delayed by a month. That pushes the start of the regular season to roughly May through, well, it’s not entirely clear. Brown’s tweet says that the regular season would be delayed by a month and extended by a week. The assumption is that the “extended by a week” would mean the first week of October, then you begin the playoffs.

A delayed start to the year almost guarantees that there will be more fans in the stands at games. The more vaccines that are distributed, the safer we all are, the less spread there is, the less risk there is for everyone, and the more things can safely open up. That leads to more money for the owners. It’ll lead to a better atmosphere for the players, too – though they, unlike the owners, don’t reap the financial rewards (at least immediately) from this aspect of the deal. But with more money coming in, that could lead to – in theory at least – more money willingly spent on players in the offseason (as long as we ignore that whole CBA negotiation thing that will likely drag out the offseason after 2021 as long as humanly possible).

Adding the designated hitter to the National League is something that the players, and the owners, both are in favor of. But as things go – it’s a bargaining chip that is being used by both sides to try and get something else that they want that the other side isn’t quite as happy about.

Let’s talk about the extended playoffs now. We saw it last year with the shortened season. Some people liked it, some people hated it, and some just didn’t have much of an opinion on it. In a shortened season, it made sense. There was less time to figure out who was the “best”. While the playoffs don’t always determine that, either, it gave a few extra teams a chance to show it could have been them.

Where this gets a bit messy is that we know that in the playoffs, that’s where MLB teams make a ton of money, while the players barely get any of it. The players in a typical playoff year get 60% of the ticket sale revenue for the minimum number of games in a series (in a 3-game series the players get 60% of the gate for the first two games, in a 7-game series they would get 60% of the gate for the first four games). The rest of the money – television contracts, and the remainder of the gate – goes to the owners. Playoff games are big tickets for television.

This is a situation where you have to ask what the players are getting out of the whole situation. They are already guaranteed their full salary for the 2021 season. Major League Baseball offering that changes nothing – it’s already guaranteed unless the nation locks down again. Expanding the playoffs, in the short term, without drastically changing the way the playoff revenue is divided up between the owners and the players, is not doing much to help the players financially.

In the long term, it may actually harm them. While this would only be a 1-year agreement, it would set precedent in future collective bargaining negotiations. If teams don’t have to fight as hard to make the playoffs, the incentive to try harder and in turn, spend more money to try and grab playoff spots is less. That’s likely to lead to lower salaries across the board.

We don’t have the details on whether or not MLB was willing to alter the financial landscape of the playoff revenues. If they are, and we just didn’t hear it, then maybe this is something that could make some sense for the players. But if it’s not a real difference in how that money is split up, it’s tough to see why the players would agree to a deal that basically gives them nothing extra, could possibly harm them in the future with regards to earnings, and gives the owners a big chunk of revenue in the short term that isn’t being shared.

It is also now being reported that the offered proposal would give Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball control over cancelling games if the MLBPA had agreed to this deal. On top of that, MLB actually asked the players to take a pay cut.

Editors note: Information has been added as more details have emerged about the offer that includes the designated hitter.

46 Responses

  1. renbutler

    Pencil on a napkin:

    So the Reds would lose 25 April games, but eight of them don’t have to be rescheduled. That leaves 17 games squished into a season that is extended by only seven days.

    They could fill a few of the open dates built into May-Sept, but likely we’re back to scheduling several seven-inning doubleheaders per team.

    The Reds have five series in April that are outside the division, and presumably other teams have the same kind of schedule. Those aren’t the type of series that can be squeezed into the remaining schedule in any delicate kind of way. So it seems they might have to scrap the entire current schedule and start over.

  2. MK

    Sounds like a fair compromise. Makes sense for everyone. Do not see a downside.would hope they would schedule a few doubleheader’s.

  3. Mark Moore

    And so it begins …

    The only confirmed thing here in my opinion is that there will not be a full season that starts on time. But I suspect we all knew that, didn’t we?

    Still don’t think we’ll see ST camps open up in a couple weeks.

    • Doug Gray

      Major League Baseball can’t do anything to stop the season from opening on time. That is, unless the government steps in to prevent it, and given that all other sports are going full steam ahead, and in many places now with limited fans, and we’ve actually got a vaccine program running now, too, there is no reason to believe that the government is going to step in and put a stop to sports.

      Now, the players could agree to the delayed start – but if they don’t, there’s nothing at all that gives MLB the power to step in and delay it on their own.

      • Mark Moore

        Doug – I hear what you are saying and I don’t disagree. Merely stating my opinion that there is a whole lot of ground yet to cover and nothing is settled yet. NHL games are still getting cancelled or postponed. Much of the NCAA basketball season is a wreck. Far too many unknowns for my tastes. Then again, I’m not planning on traveling until I get the vaccination. Who knows when that will happen?

        Speaking of the vaccine program … it’s a mess here in NC. Until we get more than just 2 options out there, the logistics of manufacturing and distribution will continue to be a nightmare. But that’s just what I’m seeing and reading.

      • Doug Gray

        I guess I’d say there’s a difference between having some games postponed/cancelled versus the season being unilaterally postponed until some future date. That’s not going to happen.

        As for the vaccine program…. it’s kind of a bit of a mess everywhere, but even with the mess that it is – people are getting vaccinated. It’s not smooth, it’s not nearly as quick as I personally had hoped for (in terms of the point of when we started rolling it out to the number of shots being administered) – but it is happening and it seems that the numbers are rising each week.

  4. Jon

    Honestly, the entire concept depends on vaccine production and distribution, first for the players/staff, then for fans. Seeing as how MLB (as well as the NBA) was able to operate in a bubble last year successfully, I don’t see why they can’t start 2021 the same way. Have each team start ST on time in their own home ballparks with the procedures they used in 2020. Open the season as planned on April 1 with limited and socially distanced fans in the stadiums (as was done by the Bengals). Then increase capacity as COVID numbers go down and vaccines get distributed. What exactly is the point of waiting one more month?

    • Doug Gray

      I’m guessing that the point is that come May 1st you can have more fans in the stands everywhere than you can if you start April 1st. Just a guess, though.

    • Jon

      What I’m trying to get at is that I don’t see any chance whatsoever of anything close to sellout crowds before August (and honestly, not at all in 2021). So how much difference is there in allowing 8,000 fans or so on April 1, versus say 12,000 fans per game on May 1 (just using theoretical numbers here)?

      • Doug Gray

        The average ticket to an MLB game was $34. Let’s say there are 420 games in a month (14 games per day, 30 days a month). An extra 4000 tickets sold for those 420 games would be worth $57,120,000 in ticket sales alone for all of MLB. That doesn’t include money from parking or money spent in the ballpark. Of course, you divide that up per team, and it’s what, $2M each? It’s not nothing. But it’s also relatively small.

        But what about a scenario where, say, California teams can actually have 12,000 fans instead of 0, which I believe is currently the case? That changes the math quite a bit for those teams. Now you’re talking about $0 versus $23,000,000 in ticket sales for those four teams – about $7,500,000 per team. Still, not a *large* amount, but it’s not nothing, either. And that’s just using the $34 per ticket price, and given how expensive California is, I’m guessing their average ticket price is higher. And again, that’s also ignoring all ancillary monies from parking, food, souvenirs, etc.

      • Sliotar

        @DougGray
        @Jon

        Good discussion … will throw in items from another sport, FWIW …

        NHL hockey union made it clear for this year … “No bubble in regular season, playoffs only as last resort.”

        Even playing in home arenas this seasons …NHL players now … social distancing on planes, can’t see each other in hotel rooms on road, etc.

        Very likely, IMO … MLB players would not want NHL set-up, especially with 154-game season.

      • Doc

        I didn’t think the Reds were very close to sell out crowds for several years!,

  5. Sliotar

    Starting May 1 (or so) ticks off a lot of positives for MLB …

    -Optics of MLB getting vaccines lessen, as hundreds of millions more doses on way.

    -Players likely have easier time on road than NHL players currently do.

    -Hopefully avoids any winter virus break-out issues in AZ and FL, or in MLB cities.

    -Allows MLB teams/health officials more time develop plans on fan attendance.

    -Gives best shot for a sense for MLB “normalcy” … close to how things were in 2019.

    Doug makes excellent points about owners’ greed … but I can see why this offer would be enticing to a current MLB player.

  6. TR

    I like the idea of returning to the former 154 game season and the DH in the NL. Games in April come across to me as a money grab where many sections of the country are still on the ski slopes, and the April games seem an encroachment on the basketball season.

  7. KetteringRedsFan

    In a semi-serious sort of way, I can sort of get on board with this for two self-serving and cynical reasons:

    In recent history:
    (a) just how many rainouts and schedule upsets have we had to endure in April? Moving games that were actually going to be subject to moving anyway doesn’t seem to pose a problem .. if anything, putting them on warmer dates can only help our gate, especially given the degree that it’s tied to walkups.
    (b) The Reds have been notoriously slow starters after they transition from warm/dry Arizona to a cold/wet April and May. Beginning the season in (slightly) warmer weather can only be beneficial to team stats, right? (Well, one can hope……)

  8. Rednat

    i think we can stick a fork in april baseball for a long long time. in our safety first society, no way are the owners going to stick players out there in cold 30 degree nights in april during flu and coronavirus season. way too risky. honestly i will be glad to see it go. i think it is smart to start in May. those cold april games are no fun for players and fans anyway!

  9. west larry

    In CA, you need to be in the medical profession or super old to get the corona shots. I had my first shot jan 30, and get my second on feb 20.Enough about me. My point is that we will have a high percentage of shots by May, so the May start seems okay. If they can do 154 games, with some seven inning double headers, great. I’ll take the D H and expanded playoffs. I hope the players association concurs.

    • Tom

      From what I am hearing. Those under 65 will be looking at something like June to get vaccine. Earlier would be huge. Why should players be paid 100% for a less than 100% schedule? And even if a few games are cancelled with a later start it may be the same as April cancellations are already. Do they get paid for rainouts, snowouts, etc. Baseball is in a bad position with upcoming CBA negotiations, plus their fan demographics are a mess. Management and players are going to have to work together for the good of the game. Another reason baseball needs to work on an agreement is that many teams cannot compete with the current salary structure.

      • Michael Smith

        @tom

        I fear the owners and to an extent the players are too short sighted to see the issues at hand. Hell the owners just took milb from 40 cities to save a few million a year per team. how much will it cost them in future fans who didnt grow up going to those games and connecting with those players.

  10. RedBaron

    I don’t see the logic of delaying the season. Cases are going down right now although its no guarantee they won’t go up again in 2 months once the variants hit the US in full force. The logic of delaying the season reminds me of the foolhardy decision by the Big Ten to delay the season….

    • greenmtred

      Cases are going down now, yes, but the variants have yet to have their expected big impact.

  11. Hotto4Votto

    Seems like another deal in which the owners don’t compromise anything, get what they want with expanded playoffs and ability to cancel games (and pay), but the players don’t get any real incentive they wouldn’t have had regardless.

    • Seriously?

      This take is exactly right. This is a transparent and completely self-serving offer by the owners. What they want the most is the revenue from expanded playoffs, they could care less about how it waters down the regular season (MLB should NOT be the NBA). Plus pushing back the start of regular season games gives them the chance to have bigger crowds post-vaccine, instead of “losing money” on non or low-attended games in April. Oh, and let’s give Manfred complete control of cancelling games. There is NO way the players are accepting any of this.

    • Scott C

      I agree this deal is all in favor of the owners. The Players union needs to counter with we will accept the shorter season, starting time but if you want this we want a bigger cut of the stadium proceeds. If you want an expanded playoff we get the same deal for that as we get for the regular season. The bad news for the players is that Marvin Miller is no longer around to negotiate for them.

  12. Jimbo44CN

    I think sometimes we forget in realistic terms how much these guys make. Now I am not all in for the owners, but the league minimum is now 570,000 dollars. How many people in their lifetimes get a chance to earn that kind of money in a year? Not many, and also, to get that money playing a game they love. I think their is greed on both sides and the only big losers are the fans. Having to pay as Doug says, an average of $34 a ticket to get in and then all the other extras that go along with that make for an expensive outing. Way over $100 just for two people, and if you want really good seats, way over $200. Heck, my parents never took me to a ballgame way back in the 60s cause they couldn’t afford it, has to be even tougher now with a couple of kids. Just my thoughts.

    • Frankie Tomatoes

      The every day “Joe” made more money in the 60’s than they make today when we account for inflation. We should also be sure to understand that ticket prices aren’t at all related to the salary of the players.

      While you are right that most people aren’t going to ever have the chance to make $570,000 a year, that ignores that the guys making that have insanely short amounts of time to actually make that kind of money – the average career is less than five years, and for the players who have that career, they don’t make that when we account for days spent in the minors over that period of time (when they are optioned back and forth for example they revert to 40-man and not 26-man pay which is between $42,000 and $82,000 a year). And of course, these players are also the absolute elite of the elite in their profession that have revenues of $10,000,000,000+ per year and the workforce is relatively small that produces that. The guys making league minimum are drastically underpaid for what they bring to the table.

      • Jimbo44CN

        But yet and still, how many of us on this board would have loved the chance to play baseball for money, even for a very short time. Yes, they are talented, yes they are elite, and yes they do have it not so great when in the minors, but for most(or almost all) it’s a dream come true. All I am saying is their is greed on both sides, and five years at 600000 is still almost 2 million dollars, not exactly chump change.

      • Frankie Tomatoes

        We aren’t going to agree that it’s greed on the players side. They deserve every penny they get and more. They are the only reason the money exist. No one is showing up to Wrigley Field to watch the grass grow.

    • Hotto4Votto

      Jimbo, yes baseball players in general make a lot more than the average guy. Certainly a lot more than I have ever made. But let’s not forget that the owners are billionaires trying to make more money off the players and squeeze more money the hard earn wages of the average Joe who just wants to support their team.
      Here’s a comparison I found enlightening when thinking of the magnitude of difference between a million and a billion.
      One million seconds = about 11 and a half days.
      One billion seconds = about 32 and a half years.
      After that sinks in, it should be clear that the magnitude of greed bends heavily toward the owners.

  13. MK

    Give me a break. Talking 8 games here little more than a week of games. When I was a kid 154 games was the standard and had been for 60 years. With expanded playoffs season will end up being normal time. There were many times in the early 20th century that seasons began in late April or early May.

    From what I’ve heard most people under 40 won’t get vaccine until July if all goes as planned.

    This sounds like a fair proposal from the owners, trying to get back to as normal as possible. Players get full pay and the DH, owners get the revenue for additional playoff games which means the players might play the number of games they would have without the cut of those eight games.

    • Frankie Tomatoes

      The players are already guaranteed full pay, so “getting it” is nothing. It’s not something the owners are offering them, it’s already happening no matter what. The owners are offering the designated hitter that they, the owners, also want to implement, at the cost of boatloads of money that they aren’t sharing with the players.

      The owners get way more money.

      The players get a few less games but also fewer off days and no additional share of the extra money.

      You give me a break. That is not a fair proposal.

  14. Frankie Tomatoes

    All of this just comes off as the owners trying to make the players look like the bad guys in the upcoming CBA talks. When things get bad in the offseason they will try to point at stuff like this and say “we offered them this, that, and this other thing and they kept saying no!”

    The season will start on time. It’ll be 162 games. The players aren’t falling for this stuff.

    • Jimbo44CN

      You are correct, we arent;t going to agree. They get what the market is willing to pay and thats fine. I just think in this instance they are being greedy too.

      • Frankie Tomatoes

        The market is fixed so it’s not really a market.

    • TR#1

      You would think players would throw ownership a bone with expanded playoffs to offset loss in gate revenue. I know they don’t want to lose leverage in next CBA in regards to expanded playoff, but come on. They will get 15 more jobs this year with DH. Neither side wants to see the forest through the trees. All are greedy (probably owners more), but we need some compromise. Stop acting like you are politicians and give a little. Enjoy 2021 baseball because I’m thinking it’s all going downhill after this year.

      • Doug Gray

        They won’t get 15 more jobs. The rosters aren’t being expanded, the roles will just change.

  15. Mike McSorley

    Many things to consider …
    Before expansion the baseball season started in mid-April. What with the iffy weather that month, it makes sense to move the start date back. I can’t get my head around owners/schedule makers setting up night games in cold weather cities in April. MLB should stay at warm weather sites until May (unless you have a dome) or at least make all games in April day games.
    Back to a “normal” 154-game schedule … it’ll be the return of the asterisk on all the records between 1961-2019. (You know once it’s contracted, they’ll never go back.)
    Expanded playoffs? Not really a good idea from players’ standpoint. If half the teams qualify, the regular season takes on less importance. Owners will construct 85-win teams (less money) rather than trying to build a juggernaut. Quality of play will suffer. One could expand the playoffs in the sense that more games are added to each round … best of five instead of best of three … best of seven instead of best of five, etc.
    Ticket prices … growing up in the late’50s-early ‘60s box seats at Crosley were $3, reserved $2, general admission $1 (Second deck, a-l-l-l the way down the right and left field line. Sun/Moon Deck was 50 cents, later went up to $1. Pretty expensive when you consider minimum wage was something like 75 cents/hour.
    When I worked in radio, I remember a conversation with Bob Goode about WSAI bringing the Beatles to Crosley Field in 1966. His biggest concern was the ticket price, an unheard of $6, twice as much as what the Reds were charging for box seats! He said they were all sweating bullets as to whether anyone would show! I think you know how that turned out.
    These proposals sound like opening salvos to establish the framework of later negotiations. One thing that may pop up regarding the “hazards” of travel is realignment along truly regional lines, similar to what the other major sports are doing. To balance any anomalies there may be a push for two new franchises … a $2-$3 billion-dollar ka-ching for the owners and fifty new jobs for the players and eight resurrected minor league clubs.
    Timing may not be right, but it’s something to think about.

    • jazzmanbbfan

      Part of the problem with April baseball is MLBs insistence on scheduling way too many games in places like Detroit, Chicago, Boston, NY, Minneapolis, Denver, Philadelphia. St. Louis, Cincinnati & KC. If the majority of games in April were scheduled in domes and more climate friendly places: Toronto, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Miami, Tampa Bay, Houston, Dallas, Phoenix, SD, SF, LA, Anaheim, Oakland, there might be fewer postponements or games with nobody in the stands because it’s 35 and raining. When I used to actually go to games, I stopped buying a partial ticket package because they crammed a higher percentage of the games on my plans in April. I hate being cold, so I stopped that and just bought tickets to games I wanted to attend at a time of year more conducive to my preferred temperatures.

  16. TR#1

    So when part of or all of the 2022 season is cancelled, then do players get paid? Let’s say 2022 is cancelled, then will Mike Moustakas have 1 or 2 years left. Does the 2022 or 2023 salaries get moved to 2023 and 2024? I’m assuming they don’t get paid since no CBA. I feel like owners going to make players pay for not giving up any revenue on their side for 2020 and 2021.

    • Doug Gray

      The players would not be paid. As far as I know, if the season isn’t played, it’s still accounted for with regards to “free agent” status. So it wouldn’t alter guys status with regards to that. What I don’t know about is how it would effect guys who haven’t reached free agency yet. Like, would Tyler Stephenson get credit for a season of service time?

      • TR#1

        I would assume service time issues would be worked out as part of CBA. Beyond the economic part of next CBA, the service time manipulation is going to be very contentious. I have a feeling Bob may be one of owners who pushes for hard bargain/no season in order to save money on the bloated Votto, Mouse, and even Castellanos contracts.

    • Mark Moore

      That’s the bigger question in my mind. 2022 isn’t a guarantee by any stretch. In fact, I’d say the chances of a stoppage are well North of 50%. And that’s a problem regardless of how 2021 plays out.

      We’ve not seen the last of COVID and some probability it gets worse again, especially in some areas. Vaccine distribution (not to mention manufacturing) has to straighten out and remember that’s TWO doses to get the desired immunity from the only two available at the moment.

      Good news is there are more on the way. This story from BBC News is good information and a pretty quick read.

      https://www.bbc.com/news/health-51665497

  17. Hotto4Votto

    Saw a post elsewhere about the biggest contracts in baseball. Votto’s is currently 15th. Then got to thinking about how many times I see it posted on here that his contract is a bad contract. It is not, it is an expensive, backloaded contract, but not bad from a value perspective. It is even better after last season where he was paid $9.25m compared to $25m.
    According to baseball reference Votto has accumulated 27.8 WAR during the 2014-2020 seasons. Average value per WAR is $8m, which equates to $222.4 million in value thus far on a $225m deal. But when you factor in the pay cut, the total value of the deal becomes $215.75m. There’s already excess value with 3 years remaining.
    Fans may not like that the Reds are paying more money for the downside of his career than the upside and prime years. But that’s generally what happens based on baseball’s FA system. The fact is, Votto has already been worth his contract by providing so much surplus value at the beginning of it. If there’s something to complain about, complain about the FO giving out that contract and then wasting prime years in a fruitless rebuild.

    • Hotto4Votto

      Actually, I miscalculated the total of his value. Subtracted the wrong number. His deal adjusted is $209.25, so even better value.

  18. Hotto4Votto

    Well the players rejected the proposal and I think it’s a good play on their part.

    It was never about the DH. Both sides want the DH but neither wants it bad enough to offer up something to the other side. The DH really only affects a handful of players as most DH are simply bench/platoon players. It doesn’t create more jobs as the roster sizes stay the same, at best it allows bad fielders a longer go at it. Largely it’s inconsequential.

    It was never about 8 games. That’s truly insignificant and the players would have been paid their full contracted salary. In some ways it was about player health. Many have begun ramping up their work out routines to start ST in a less than 3 weeks. Changing that now could lead to injury issues. (And while pushing the season back could also be construed to be about player/fans health, it is not. It is about taking in more money from the gate). It is also, largely, about not giving more power to the owners. Manfred would have too much power to cancel games under this proposal. This sets up precedent for the upcoming CBA. Not a good time for the players to cede power to MLB, especially when a plan is already in place to play a full season.

    It is about expanding playoffs which is good for the owners but bad for the players. Expanded playoffs means more salary suppression by the owners. They no longer feel the pressure to spend more on player salaries to get into the playoffs because it became a lot easier to make it. That sets a bad precedent. On top of that, the majority of the money made from playoffs goes to the owners. If the owners really wanted to negotiate in good faith they would have offered something of value to the players. If they offered FA after 4 years or set a salary floor of like $75m for teams to the players we’d see a lot more headway on expanded playoffs.

    It’s funny to see people say the players are greedy for wanting to be paid fair value. The owners suppress their salaries at every turn, yet when the players don’t cave on a bad deal for them some want to say they’re greedy. The owners lobbied the government to suppress minor league salaries, and then cut 40 MILB teams just to save a couple million. A small drop in their very large bucket. The owners are able to suppress salaries for 6+ seasons on players through service time and arbitration when players are in their prime, and then don’t want to pay them in FA as we’ve seen in recent off seasons.
    It’s like the chickens and pigs taking the side of the butcher over the cows.