At this point, it might be more of a surprise if we actually have baseball in 2020 because if it isn’t the stalemate between the players and owners that destroys the season, the coronavirus could.
After some promising signs of progress last week, which was headlined by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and players’ union chief Tony Clark sitting down in a room together in Arizona, the league and MLBPA are still a long way apart.
Following the players countered the owners’ 60-game, fully-prorated plan with.a 70-game format, the owners balked and said they will not approve a plan that’s more than 60 games.
The union was initially expected to vote on that format on Saturday, but they opted to push the vote back to Sunday as they sift through health-and-safety protocols amidst a resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic across the nation.
Spikes in Florida and Arizona have seen all spring-training facilities close while teams such as the New York Mets and Yankees — who are located in one of the country’s initial hot spots for the virus — are moving their spring training from Florida to New York.
It adds more rumblings of uncertainty to an avalanche that was already created by ineffective negotiations between the players and owners. Now with each passing day with no resolution, the viability of successfully putting together a season becomes that much more unlikely.
“Obviously we’re all hoping for an agreement, but I spoke to a source yesterday who told me an agreement is ‘very iffy’ at this point,” ESPN MLB insider Tim Kurkjian said on Sunday. “He told me there’s a faction of players out there saying ‘we have to play. We have to take this deal. It’s good for the game. It’s good for the country. The young players need to get paid.’ Yet, he told me there’s another faction of players who just say that 60 games is not enough.”
Commissioner Manfred has the autonomous power to impose a schedule if negotiations are officially declared dead, which many believed was the case early last week when both parties said they would stop negotiating. But it is expected to be between 48 and 54 games, providing a sizable additional pay cut for the players even with full prorated salaries.
Such a decision would lead to the expected filing of a grievance from the union looking to obtain financial damages. Such an action would only further damage the relationship between the players and owners with Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations scheduled at the end of 2021.