TAYLOR COUNTY—After nearly three months of unsuccessful talks with the union ended without a negotiated settlement, Major League Baseball announced on Monday that it plans to impose a 60-game schedule that will begin around July 24th, but first needs players to sign off on a health-and-safety waiver and to pledge to arrive at home stadiums by July 1st in order to prepare for the season.
The league did not specifically detail the length of the schedule but said in a statement that it wanted players to report to their home ballparks by July 1st for training camp. If they do, and if the union signs off on the health protocol, the schedule would be for 60 games and most likely start around July 24th.
The league and the union exchanged proposals last week, with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred offering a 60-game schedule, 104 percent of prorated salaries for players, and several other key elements, such as including an expanded playoff field and a universal designated hitter (DH). The players rejected Manfred’s plan in a vote on Monday in an overwhelming manner.
Manfred said again on Monday that he and Executive Director of the Players’ Union Tony Clark had developed an “agreement framework” just last week, when Manfred flew to Arizona to meet with Clark in person. The union disputed that characterization, and Manfred described Monday’s rejection as something of a betrayal.
In a statement sent to several news outlets, Manfred said, “needless to say, we are disappointed by this development. The framework provided an opportunity for MLB and its players to work together to confront the difficulties and challenges presented by the pandemic.”
The union’s rejection meant that those items in the proposal, which also included $25 million from a playoff pool and $33 million in forgiven salary advances, would not be in place in 2020. There would also be no advertising patches on uniforms, a provision that was also in the proposal.
The owners continuously pushed for a shorter schedule because they would lose revenue by hosting regular-season games without fans in attendance while the pandemic continues, but players did not shift from their demands of full prorated pay, which many of the owners’ proposals did not include. The players’ most recent proposal, just last week, was for a 70-game schedule, but the owners did not consider it.
Whatever the number of games Manfred ultimately imposes, the MLBPA seems likely to file a grievance seeking substantial payouts to players, on the basis that the league negotiated in “bad faith.” The union would have had to drop its “right to litigation” as a condition of the proposal it rejected on Monday, a privilege they viewed as too great, because Manfred was likely to implement a modified schedule either way.
Even with the recent turn of events, multiple players have stated that they expect to agree to the league’s call to report by July 1st and to its health-and-safety protocol, with executive subcommittee member Andrew Miller stating, “we are ready to get back on the field.”