Baseball’s owners voted unanimously Monday to proceed with the 2020 season, bringing Major League Baseball closer than ever to announcing firm plans on its pandemic-delayed 2020 season.
But as with most labor matters concerning baseball’s owners and players, that goal is not quite signed and sealed — and that’s without knowing what COVID-19 could do to the season.
The vote came after the players rejected the owners’ final 60-game proposal earlier in the day. The owners said producing an actual schedule — MLB’s hope is to play a 60-game season — would require the union to abide by two demands before 5 p.m. Tuesday: 1) players agree to report to camp by July 1, and 2) they agree to health and safety protocols the sides are still discussing.
To play 60 games, the season would have to start by late July after players complete approximately three weeks of their second round of spring training.
The rejection by the 38-member Executive Board was expected. The vote was reported to be 33-5.
The nearly three-month battle since the players and owners forged a March 26 agreement and Monday’s actions meant the often-acrimonious dealings ended without an agreement — not a shocking development given how each side did not want to give ground during this unforeseen 2020 battle and with a new collective bargaining agreement looming, after the 2021 season.
The sides exchanged seven formal proposals without a sign-off.
By leaving the decision up to commissioner Rob Manfred, the players will nix expanded playoffs, something the owners were keen on to start this season because it is a lucrative source of revenues.
The statement from MLB did not hide its disappointment, pointing out five areas it felt players missed out on good deals, including the universal DH for two seasons, guaranteed money in 2020 playoff pools, $33 million in salary advance forgiveness, and players receiving 104 percent of their prorated salaries.
Even with a resolution near, there is still no guarantee that games can be played if the COVID-19 outbreak continues to rise in more states.
Each side also will retain the right to file a grievance over bad-faith negotiations.
Before MLB’s statement, the union’s statement struck a matter-of-fact tone:
“Earlier this evening, the full Board reaffirmed the players’ eagerness to return to work as soon and as safely as possible. To that end we anticipate finalizing a comprehensive set of health and safety protocols with Major League Baseball in the coming days, and we await word from the league on the resumption of spring training camps and a proposed 2020 schedule.
“While we had hoped to reach a revised back to work agreement with the league, the Players remain fully committed to proceeding under our current agreement and getting back on the field for the fans, for the game, and for each other.”
After the vote results came out, one player, the outspoken Trevor Bauer of the Reds, took to Twitter to express dismay: “It’s absolute death for this industry to keep acting as it has been. Both sides. We’re driving the bus straight off a cliff. How is this good for anyone involved? COVID-19 already presented a lose lose lose situation and we’ve somehow found a way to make it worse. Incredible.
“If there’s going to be a fight the time for that fight is after the ’21 season when a new CBA is negotiated. 5 years of potential change. We’re doing irreparable damage to our industry right now over rules that last AT MOST 16 months . . . ”
If baseball is played, a universal DH will be employed, meaning pitchers won’t be hitting in the National League.
The owners’ last proposal, last Tuesday, was their first to adhere to a portion of the agreement negotiated by the parties —that players would be paid 100 percent of their 2020 prorated salaries. In their three prior proposals, owners offered varying guaranteed percentages of the full pro rata.
The players’ counterproposal, for 70 games, came soon after but the owners said their 60-game offer was their last one, leaving it up to the players to vote thumbs up or thumbs down.
The vote was delayed when the Phillies’ and Blue Jays’ spring training camps in Florida, where players were working out informally, were shut down Friday after COVID-19 positive tests and symptoms were revealed. MLB announced that night that all spring training facilities in Florida and Arizona would close and teams would resume spring training at their home ballparks.
The players took extra time over the weekend to review the rise in COVID-19 cases and health and safety protocols.
At 60 games of full prorated salary, owners would pay the players approximately $1.5 billion in salaries. They would have had to pay an additional $260 million, or $8.67 million more per team on average, for a 70-game season.
The players’ three offers were for 114, 89, and 70 games.
The owners’ four offers were for 82, 76, 72, and 60 games.