It’s always a numbers game when it comes to labor talks between MLB owners and players.
Right now, the most polarizing number is how many games the pandemic-shortened 2020 regular season is going to be, based on communication with industry sources familiar with the most recent talks.
If it’s approximately a 50-game schedule in front of no fans, then the owners are OK with paying the players 100 percent of their prorated 2020 salaries.
But once the number of games starts to climb north of 50 games, then the owners want the pro rata percentage to come down. The owners say they can’t afford to meet that 100 percent rate when more games are played because their losses would simply be too steep to shoulder alone.
That’s why in the initial 82-game schedule pitched by the league, the owners wanted to pay 60 percent of players’ prorated salaries, with the players absorbing the revenue losses in that 40 percent cut.
That was a non-starter for the players, who responded on Sunday with a 114-game schedule while holding firm on seeking 100 percent of their prorated salaries.
In a meeting Sunday, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told MLBPA executive director Tony Clark the league could pay 100 percent of prorated salaries but only for that short, approximately 50-game schedule.
Considering the owners only were willing to pay 60 percent of prorated salaries for the 82-game schedule, to be consistent the percentage they’d be willing to pay for a 114-game schedule would be well under 50 percent, which the players are not going to approve.
The union wants more details from the owners to justify their claims that the dollar losses for north-of-50 regular-season games are unsustainable.
The league is of the mind-set that whatever financial information it provides, it still would not be enough to change the players’ minds on the full 100 percent pro rata pay.
The players are still waiting on more financial details and they are waiting on the owners to make a counter-proposal.
The owners are huddling about where to go next, but they want the players to begin negotiating off that 100 percent pro rata stance.
As for the players seeking full pay and service time for players who are considered high risk or someone in their family is high risk for health reasons, that does not seem to be an idea the owners would reject out of hand.
The players agree that the March 26 agreement the sides forged grants MLB the right to control the length of the season.
However, the agreement also contains good-faith language about playing as many games as possible. The players could file a grievance against the owners for not living up to that language, but the resolution would come well after the 2020 season is played or not.
And that likelihood appears far from certain at the moment, because the players believe the owners are unwilling to sustain all losses, unwilling to back up their financial distress claims and leaking misinformation, all in an effort the union views as holding the game hostage with its powers to determine the length of the season.
The health and safety protocols proposed by the owners have not met nearly as much resistance from the players. The players have proposed tweaks to the health and safety language but that conversation is on a separate track from the compensation track, which has a long way to go in a short period of time — by next week at the latest most likely — before reaching a mutually agreeable destination.