The MLBPA’s counterproposal to start the 2020 MLB season is slightly convoluted, a bit farfetched and is a single Vin Diesel appearance away from being the plot of a “Fast and Furious” movie — but hey, at least they’re trying.
On Sunday, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that the MLB Players Association submitted its counteroffer to MLB to get a season under way. It seems pretty reasonable, current circumstances aside: a 114-game regular season stretching into October, players owning the right to opt out at any time, and playoff expansion that seems more like a bargaining chip for future labor talks.
Let’s make it clear: MLB will almost absolutely reject the proposal, because that’s how negotiations go, and if Passan’s report means anything, it could open the door for more reasonable requests from the side of ownership.
Here are some of the more important takeaways from the proposal:
That’s a lot of games
Like, a lot of games. In MLBPA’s proposal, 114 games would be scheduled to play between June 30 and Oct. 31, which sounds like something of a logistical nightmare, considering they’d have 123 days to get in those 114 games. Recently, MLB proposed an 82-game season that featured a pretty preposterous sliding scale for the players.
While there’s normally about 18 scheduled off days during an MLB season, questions like rain outs, travel and more all have to come into play with the MLBPA proposal. Obviously, extending the season into October allows for some of that to account for a more reasonable year, and logistically plausible at that.
MLB should be satisfied that players want to and are seemingly willing to play much more than 82 games, but it seems like playoffs are a must-have in this situation, and it’s something that isn’t entirely explored in Passan’s report.
Playoff expansion? Playoff expansion.
This seems like something thrown in there to appease ownership and TV networks for future negotiations — reminder that the CBA is set to expire following the 2021 season, folks — so it’s an interesting tactic to use here.
Personally, I find nothing wrong with the current state of the MLB postseason. The addition of the second wild card has added an urgency and importance to winning a division in the last months of the season, even if the possibility of a 98-win team losing out to an 85-win team is “unfair.” Sure, baseball isn’t built on a single game but series, so the hate for the wild card is understood.
Soliloquy aside, the idea of playoff expansion for the next two seasons seems like a bargaining chip not just now, but for the future, when MLB was already talking about potentially expanding the playoffs. It’s a bold strategy, Cotton.
Players have right to opt out
This might be the most interesting bit of the whole shebang.
The MLBPA’s proposal states that players have the right to “opt out on the season,” so if no one wants to play, they won’t have to. That said, how do teams go about filling rosters? Is there a deadline on when players can opt out?
Players deemed “high-risk” in regard to the coronavirus would still be allowed to collect their salary, while those who don’t want to play out of fear of COVID-19 contraction won’t.
With a June 30 proposed start date on the season, that means players would have to be in or out right now, like Matt Damon in “Ocean’s 11.” Teams would have to figure out a way to get those roster spots filled in the immediate, which means minor-leaguers would have to get into the fold and quickly.
And what happens if, let’s say, a Clayton Kershaw or Mike Trout decides not to play? How do teams approach salary, service time and free agency? Again, there are many, many details that have to be hammered out and fast. But it’s a good way for players to take care of other players in the immediate and not pressure anyone unwilling to play into taking the field.
Minimal concessions on pay
The players don’t want to lose money, as the owners say they are. The financials seem to be the only thing keeping MLB and the MLBPA so far apart on discussions, and the players, who are within their right to fight for as much money as they can get, still don’t seem very willing to compromise on that.
The 114-game season, playoff expansion and the Home Run Derby or All-Star Game during the offseason all speak to that idea, so it’s pretty good on the players to try and figure out more ways to give a little bit more while keeping their finances intact. The MLBPA is also asking for an $100 million cash advance on salary, further alleviating a bit of the salary burden from owners.
So, really, the pressure is back on the owners. Do they continue to cry poor and point to their bleeding cash flow, or do they turn around and counter with someone more reasonable than expecting the game’s highest stars to take massive paycuts?
The clock is ticking.
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