MLBPA Pitches 89-Game Schedule in Latest Proposal

As Major League Baseball hits the two and a half month mark since Opening Day was scheduled and then postponed thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to await word that the two sides have reached an agreement that will bring baseball back to the diamonds in North America. There has been quite a bit of discourse with the sides bouncing back and forth with varying offers though there has to yet to be anything that the opposite side has grabbed on to in order to bridge the gap between the two sides. Just this week, the owners pitched a 76-game slate with players receiving 75 percent of their pro-rated salaries on Monday afternoon.

That prompted the latest response from the players on Tuesday as they sent over an 89-game proposal in the latest effort to salvage the season. Under that proposal, the season would begin on July 10 and the regular season would conclude on October 11. The players are still holding the line on full pro-rated salaries for that amount of games and they are advocating the expanded playoff field that the owners discussed in their proposal Monday. Similar to the proposal from the owners on Monday, the players agreed to share in a pool worth at least $50 million should the playoffs end up being held without fans in attendance.

The big thing for the players is the fact that players have an opt-out should they not want to play this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under that concept, players can sit out if they so choose. If a player is deemed high-risk or has a family member that is high-risk, they can sit out while receiving their full salary and service time. If a player doesn’t have such concerns and still chooses to sit out the year, they would forfeit their salary and fail to accrue any service time toward free agency this season.

As it stands, this deal is likely a non-starter. The owners are still reticent about guaranteeing full pro-ration of salaries when they have no guarantee that they will earn any revenue by having fans in the ballpark. While pro sports teams in Texas can have up to 25 percent capacity in the stands right now and NASCAR is bringing back fans in a limited fashion beginning this week, that doesn’t say anything about the other 28 teams in MLB that aren’t the Astros and Rangers. The players aren’t budging from their demands for being paid in full for each game that they play while the owners are leaning on paying less than that given their uncertain revenue stream. Owners are worried about avoiding playing regular season games in October and extending the season into November since it can be harder to lock in TV deals. It also wants to avoid a potential second wave of the coronavirus wreaking havoc on the most lucrative part of their season.

The best thing that one can glean from the recent proposal and counterproposal is that the two sides seem to at least be making some ground. After all, the owners have bounced from 81 games to 50 with a full pro-ration to 76 with a 75 percent pro-ration in their salaries. Meanwhile, the players went from 114 games down to 89 though their demands for full pro-ration remains the same. That seems to put the two sides right back at around somewhere in the 80 to 82 game range. Whether the two sides can come to some sort of agreement when it comes to financial numbers that both can live with remains to be seen. Barring that, we could end up with the ridiculously shortened 48 to 54 game slate that has been alluded to by commissioner Rob Manfred. We’ll see if the latest round of proposals brings the two sides closer together or merely is the latest chapter in what has been a messy set of negotiations that have gone nowhere.

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Chris Kubala

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