An email from baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred to union head Tony Clark led to a balk in the drawn-out talks to start the pandemic-delayed season.
The executive committee of the players’ association was set to vote and reject Major League Baseball’s latest offer for a 60-game season on Sunday.
Players want 70 games and $275 million more than teams are offering. They are worried that if a resurgence of the new coronavirus causes the 2020 season to be cut short, the deal being negotiated would lock in innovations for 2021 and lessen the union’s bargaining power.
Manfred wrote that if fewer than the agreed-upon number of games are played this year, the 2021 changes would be voided in a manner that would leave them up for renegotiation, people familiar with the email told The Associated Press. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because no statements were authorized.
Players didn’t take a vote and will consider their next move.
Among the items in the proposed deal for 2020 and 2021 are expanded playoffs, use of the designated hitter in games involving National League teams and allowing advertisements on uniforms. The 2020 only items include starting extra innings with runner on second and a discussion of whether to allow tie games after a specified total of innings plus player re-entry in extra innings.
Some players would prefer there not be a deal and that Manfred unilaterally order the schedule. Because players have insisted on full prorated pay, he has threatened a schedule of about 50 games.
The proposed deal would give Manfred the right to suspended or cancel play if “restrictions on travel throughout the United States are imposed” or if he determines after consulting medical experts and the union that there has been a change in circumstances posing “an unreasonable health and safety risk to players or staff to stage those games, even without fans in attendance.”
MLB’s proposal for 60 games includes $1.48 billion in salary plus a $25 million postseason players’ pool, while the union’s plan includes $1.73 billion in salary and a $50 million pool.
Absent an agreement, the union would file a grievance claiming MLB violated the provision in the March 26 agreement recognizing “that each of the parties shall work in good faith to as soon as is practicable commence, play, and complete the fullest 2020 championship season and post-season that is economically feasible,” subject to several provisions.
Those provisions say that without MLB’s consent, the season shall not start until there are no legal restrictions on playing in front of fans at the 30 regular-season ballparks, no relevant travel restrictions and no health or safety risk to players, staff or spectators to playing in the 30 regular ballparks. The agreement also says the sides “will discuss in good faith the economic feasibility of playing games in the absence of spectators or at appropriate substitute neutral sites.”
MLB had proposed having the season run from July 19 or 20 through Sept. 27, the shortest since the 1870s, while the union agreed to the start date and said it should end Sept. 30, or earlier using doubleheaders. Both sides proposed pitchers and catchers report June 26, followed by position players two days later, but they are running out of time to finalize a schedule that would allow players time to meet those dates.
A rise in positive tests last week in Florida caused MLB to close all 30 training camps for deep cleaning and disinfecting. The Philadelphia Phillies announced Friday that five players had tested positive for COVID-19.
Twenty-nine of the 30 teams now intend to hold training at their regular season stadiums rather than spring training sites. Toronto may be an exception due to Canadian federal and Ontario provincial restrictions.