Written by Chris Kubala
After what initially seemed like a potentially promising week for negotiations between the owners in major league baseball and the MLBPA, it looks like we’re right back where we started when the week began. That means that we’re still looking for the two sides to hammer out some sort of agreement to get the season going. We’ve already seen baseball get underway in Taiwan (the CPBL) and in Korea (the KBO) in the last couple of months. On Friday, baseball got started in the Land of the Rising Sun as the NPB started their season in earnest after several delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With MLB, we’re still waiting. As the sides continue to go back and forth in an effort to come up with a proposal that favors their side but still palatable enough for the other side to accept, we’re left with no baseball here in North America. On Tuesday, Rob Manfred and Tony Clark met in Arizona for several hours with the thought process that the framework of a potential deal was hammered out in that meeting. That led to the owners sending a proposal for a 60-game schedule with full pro-rated salaries Wednesday with the thought process that all was done and things would get back to business.
Instead, the players bounced back with a 70-game slate of their own that would have begun the same day (July 19, but ended three days later, on September 30. The other factors, including the full pro-rated salaries and the expanded playoff field, remained intact in their counteroffer. Clark said as part of his statement Thursday that “We believe this offer represents the basis for an agreement on a resumption of play."
As it turned out, that was wishful thinking as well. The proposal from the MLBPA was quickly shot down by Manfred on Thursday night, with the commissioner saying that he doesn’t have a timetable for things as of yet. His statement about the situation said: "This needs to be over. Until I speak with owners, I can't give you a firm deadline."
The back and forth continued when Clark told Manfred that he wouldn’t present the 60-game offer to the eight-man executive committee Wednesday night. That led to the counterproposal of 70 games, which Manfred said he warned Clark wasn’t feasible even before the players sent their offer over:
“I told him 70 games was simply impossible given the calendar and the public health situation, and he went ahead and made that proposal anyway.''
Manfred also made it clear that the owners weren’t interested in playing doubleheaders. In addition, he stated that the league didn’t want to play deeper into October, which would be the case if the schedule was lengthened any further. Again, Manfred deferred to the health factor and the uncertainty of the coronavirus as the rationale for that in his comments.
We told them we're not playing doubleheaders. Our public health guys tell us you should not put people together for that number of hours in the day. It's not safe. But they just keep ignoring those things."
Again, we’re back to the point where the owners may end up dictating the length of the schedule and how things will play out. This has been the fallback option the whole time and is one run up the ladder from the scorched earth, no baseball at all in 2020 landscape. One would think that the two sides could find a compromise between their recent proposals with such a small gap but we’re talking about a pair of entities with a ton of discord between them. Trust is hard to come by when it comes to either side in regards to the other and it’s not promising to think that something will suddenly change in that regard.
One has to hope that something shifts here in the coming days in order to get something concrete down and get back to playing games. It’s getting ridiculous that we’re watching these two sides fight like kids on the playground as opposed to hammering out a deal that works for both sides and brings baseball back to the forefront in an actual positive light. If they do, perhaps the discord and negative public images will be dulled a bit. Until that happens though, expect a lot more bashing on both sides in the press as the talking heads continue to figure things out.