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MLB owners tell players 70 games is not happening

Baseball's next step might be for commissioner Rob Manfred to impose a schedule.John Raoux/Associated Press

We now know that if there’s going to be a 2020 baseball season, it’s not going to be 70 games, that’s for sure. At most, it’s going to top out in the low 60s, probably right at 60, or it could drop as low as 50 depending on how things shake out.

Major League Baseball informed the players’ union Friday night that the owners were not going to respond to the players’ 70-game proposal from Thursday.

Rejection was expected, but in informing the union the season will not exceed 60 games, the owners set in motion the possibility of commissioner Rob Manfred setting the exact number of games if the union does not vote to accept the owners’ offer.


Timing on a decision for establishing the number of games is uncertain. Manfred needs to discuss the matter with the 30 owners and the union will discuss the matter with its executive board in the “near future.”

The union agrees that the power to impose a schedule is within Manfred’s rights, as stated by the March 26 agreement forged between the sides.

That agreement also says that the players will be paid their full prorated 2020 salaries, which is something the owners’ 60-game offer did include.

Another component to the agreement is that the sides are supposed to endeavor to play the most games possible. Talk of a grievance from the players about that number was minimized in the 70-game offer, which included waiver of that grievance right.

The union’s next steps will be to either accept the offer, try to negotiate the number into the low 60s or reject it and allow the commissioner to set a schedule of no more than 60 games.

Whether the union would waive its right to grievance in the latter example remains to be seen, and should be a strong indicator of how much lingering hostility exists between sides that have been warring for weeks.


The union struck a neutral tone in its statement: “MLB has informed the Association that it will not respond to our last proposal and will not play more than 60 games. Our Executive Board will convene in the near future to determine next steps. Importantly, Players remain committed to getting back to work as soon as possible.”

The “when and where” has caught on among the players over the past week, after the union signaled it was giving up talking and union executive director Tony Clark stated “Tell us when and where” to report to work.

One mitigating factor that could work against the likelihood of the union filing a grievance at a 60-or-fewer game schedule is that Friday’s news came the same day that two camps, the Phillies and Blue Jays, shut down because of COVID-19 positive tests.

With the virus cases spiking in both Florida and Arizona, two states where the teams would spend three weeks in spring training before beginning a season in late July, the players may see a path toward resuming, where accepting a 60-game deal is not an actionable “loss” but a practical and logical conclusion that was reached with the health and safety of the players paramount.

That scenario, however, is far from a given because of the bad blood spilled of late.


The difference for owners in salary costs between a 60-game and a 70-game season is $260 million, or $8.67 million per team on average.

A solution will have to be found soon; even for a shorter season, a second “spring training” would have to begin by the end of the month for a regular season to start in July and be completed by the Sept. 27 end date the owners want.

How the latest proposals affect the game's players Here's a look at how notable players will be compensated.
162 games 70 games (MLBPA proposal) 60 games (MLB proposal) 65 games (compromise)
Players in total $4.07B $1.76B $1.51B $1.63B
Mike Trout $36M $15.56M $13.33M $14.44M
Chris Sale $30M $12.96M $11.11M $12.04M
Mookie Betts $27M $11.67M $10M $10.83M
Rafael Devers $692.5K $299.2K $256.5K $277.9K
Major league minimum $563.5K $243.5K $208.7K $226.1K
SOURCE: Compiled from major-league sources and Spotrac

Michael Silverman can be reached at michael.silverman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeSilvermanBB.