MLB announced Monday night that commissioner Rob Manfred intends to impose a season on the players, following the owners voting unanimously for that option. MLB’s statement also put forth two directives to the union, with a request for an answer by 5 p.m. on Tuesday evening. Those matters pertained to the players’ ability to report to camp within a week (by July 1) and the ratification of a safety and testing protocol for COVID-19.
The league’s decision came after the MLB Players Association voted to reject Major League Baseball’s proposal for a 2020 season on Monday evening. That proposal called for, among other things, a 60-game season, an expanded postseason, and no additional salary guarantees should the season be canceled due to the novel coronavirus. The vote — which featured one MLBPA representative per team and eight members of the union’s executive committee — was 33-5 against the proposal, CBS Sports HQ’s Jim Bowden confirmed.
Bowden also reported that the imposed season will be 60 games. The players still have to agree to terms on coronavirus safety protocols and on a report date. Those issues could cause another snag, but ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports that players are expected to “lock in” a 60-game season that would start July 24.
Here’s the league’s statement from Monday night:
“Today, the Major League Baseball Players Association informed us that they have rejected the agreement framework developed by Commissioner Manfred and Tony Clark. 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. It gave our fans the chance to see an exciting new Postseason format. And, it offered players significant benefits including:
- The universal DH for two years
- A guaranteed $25 million in playoff pools in 2020
- $33 million in forgiven salary advances that would increase the take home pay of 61% of Major League players
- Overall earnings for players of 104 percent of prorated salary
- Over the last two days, MLB agreed to remove expanded Postseason in 2021 in order to address player concerns
“In view of this rejection, the MLB Clubs have unanimously voted to proceed with the 2020 season under the terms of the March 26th Agreement. The provisions listed above will not be operative.
“In order to produce a schedule with a specific number of games, we are asking that the Players Association provide to us by 5:00 p.m. (ET) tomorrow with two pieces of information. The first is whether players will be able to report to camp within seven days (by July 1st). The second is whether the Players Association will agree on the Operating Manual which contains the health and safety protocols necessary to give us the best opportunity to conduct and complete our regular season and Postseason.”
The MLBPA released a statement earlier Monday implying it was done negotiating with the league over the specifics of a return-to-play plan.
Manfred gained the right to impose a season as part of a March agreement between the sides. He had resisted exercising that right due to concerns from the owners’ side about a potential union grievance, which would claim the owners did not negotiate in good faith and with the intent to play as many games as possible.
Indeed, the union waiving its right to a grievance seemingly became a central part of the negotiations late in the process. Still, with no agreement in place and time running out, Manfred has turned to his last-resort option — one that will then, in all likelihood, spur a grievance from the union that could prove financially costly if the players can prove the owners were intentionally dribbling out the clock.
Monday’s developments came on the heels of more harrowing news as 40 MLB players and staff members reportedly tested positive for the novel coronavirus in recent days. MLB has reportedly ordered all spring training sites to be closed and sanitized, and personnel must test negative for COVID-19 before being allowed to return.
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The MLBPA released a statement implying its side is done negotiating about season details. It will speak with the league about health and safety protocols concerning the coronavirus.