Despite all the bluster and threats about hard lines, both sides in the frustrating MLB season negotiation remain willing to make something work. The owners would really prefer not to force the implementation of a season because it sets up a grievance. The players, on the other hand, don’t want to see their good faith eventually wielded as a club when it comes time to hammer out a new CBA.
That’s why they pushed to 70 games when acquiescing to expanded playoffs, ads on jerseys, and the universal DH. All of those things are seen as good for the league’s bottom line — with the DH good for players as well — so the union figured the additional revenue over the next two seasons would more than offset the added salary from 10 extra games. That’s almost certainly the case, but the owners are more concerned with guarantees.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred sent a letter to MLBPA executive director Tony Clark today offering to cancel expanded playoffs and universal DH for 2021 if a full season isn’t played in 2020, sources tell ESPN. Players are concerned about giving up leverage of playoffs for naught.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) June 21, 2020
Even if they won’t push the season beyond 60 games, commissioner Rob Manfred offered up an olive branch to the MLBPA’s Tony Clark on Sunday. The league has offered to eliminate the expanded playoffs and the universal DH in 2021 if this season isn’t completed. Jeff Passan’s tweet says “if a full season isn’t played,” but it clearly refers to whatever season is decided up for 2020.
That’s actually pretty big in the grand scheme of things, mainly because it represents the owners’ willingness to refrain from exploiting the situation next year should this season not work out. While you’d think they’d just opt to push closer to the players on the number of games, getting owners to forgo potentially huge revenue streams is no mean feat.
There’s also the matter of all the COVID cases popping up in different organizations, not to mention spikes in positive results in a dozen or more states. MLB has already closed down spring sites and teams would be planning to hold summer training at their respective home fields, but players are undoubtedly concerned with the testing and safety measures that would be in place should the season resumes.
It can’t just be a matter of checking temperatures and having testing every few days, so a few more assurances on those measures will go a long way. Oh, the league should probably set protocols for what happens when players test positive on the road, since that was not in the original 67-page outline put together by the league.
We may get more on the players’ decision Sunday evening, but the recent developments have given them a little more to think about and could push the vote to Monday.