Perhaps nothing says more about the current state of labor relations in Major League Baseball than this:
Each offer takes the sides further apart and creates more animus than peace.
MLB delivered a written proposal Monday to the Players Association that called for players to receive 50 percent of their prorated salaries in a 76-game regular season. That would go to 75 percent if the postseason were concluded. MLB eliminated the sliding scale element from its previous proposal that would have most impacted the salaries of the biggest earners and that the union loathed.
The proposal also called for no draft pick compensation if a player is made a qualifying offer, rejects it and signs with another team — marking the first time in four decades that MLB would have no compensation of some sort on free agency. MLB saw that as a concession with an expectation that this offseason’s free agency will be hurt by hits to MLB revenue this season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Players Association did not comment publicly, but viewed the offer as more of a step backward than progress toward a deal. The union views this as taking a substantial risk by being guaranteed just half its prorated pay and needing a full postseason just to get half of the remaining 50 percent at a time when it still does not believe the owners will suffer the losses that MLB is claiming.
The union despised MLB’s first 82-game plan because of the sliding scale and less than 100 percent of prorated salary. MLB hated the union’s counter because it called for not only 100 percent prorated salaries but a 114-game season. Each brought greater fury rather than cooperation. This new one did not exactly have the sides holding hands.
So where does it leave MLB? Already, the best outcome — starting the regular season on Independence Day weekend — is gone with not enough time for a resolution and a three-week spring training. The 76-game offer will become something lesser until commissioner Rob Manfred just institutes a season, perhaps of as few as 48 games.
As part of the March 26 agreement with the players, the commissioner gained control of the schedule and MLB believes as long as it pays full prorated salaries the players are obligated to play. The union has not publicly conceded that, but even if it did, it certainly at that point would nix MLB’s hopes for expanded playoffs (since an expanded postseason was not part of the March 26 agreement and the MLBPA would need to sign off on it). The postseason is when national TV broadcasters pay the most to the sport.
At this point the sides cannot even agree on when the season can end. The union proposal had the regular season stretching through October and the postseason into November, perhaps beyond. MLB has insisted that concerns about coronavirus reviving more forcefully in cooler weather makes them determined not to play a regular season beyond Sept. 27 and, therefore, saw the union’s 114-game bid as, at minimum, counterproductive.
To that end, Manfred told The Post: “Our medical people are 100 percent opposed to lengthening the season beyond the scheduled termination dates, let alone to 114 games. Unalterably opposed.”
The question that will arise out of this is if the union will counter or not? And if the players do, will the concession on no free agent draft compensation provide an avenue for the union to ask for more in that area and/or other perks that have nothing directly to do with compensation this year, but would make swallowing less than 100 percent of prorated salaries more tolerable? Or do they hold firm to the 100 percent position and force the owners to either buckle or play a season in which MLB finds it acceptable to pay full prorated salaries.
The total MLB would pay in salaries in their current proposal if the players got to 75 percent is $1.431 billion. That is roughly 57 games at full prorated.
Is that where the sides end up agreeing — or is agreeing in this hostile environment going to prove impossible for the sides?
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