Earlier in the day Sunday, MLB reportedly offered the MLBPA a proposal to delay the start of spring training and the season by one month, allow for a 154-game season, and provide players with full 162-game pay.
According to a follow up article in The Athletic written by Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich, there is reason to believe that the players will reject the league’s proposal on Monday. If that does happen, it would seem likely that spring training will start on time in mid-February, with the Mets’ regular season beginning on April 1.
There are several reasons cited as to why the players do not find the proposal acceptable. Among them are the following:
There is no guarantee that all 154 games would actually be played, as the season would be compressed (though it would go two weeks longer than originally planned). If games are postponed for any reason, it would be harder to make them up. The commissioner could have the authority to cancel, as opposed to postpone unplayed games, which may impact the proposal for full player salaries to be paid. There is no actual guarantee of full pay in the proposal.
The players feel the delay could impact their typical training regimens, and could set the stage for injuries during the season.
The universal DH remains a bargaining chip, and a point of contention between the two sides. The league is willing to offer a universal DH (which could result in some high-paying roles for players like Marcell Ozuna and Nelson Cruz) in exchange for expanded playoffs. The MLBPA is not in favor of expanded playoffs, as it fears that the format would be a disincentive for teams to spend on players, since more teams would qualify for the postseason. The league is offering $80 million to the player pool for expanded playoffs (the league put $50 million in the pool in the shortened 2020 season), which is the same amount as the 2019 season, the last full season played with fans in the stands.
And then there’s the biggest issue of the them all, the expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) after the 2021 season, and the need for a comprehensive negotiation before the 2022 season. The players may be reluctant to agree to expanded playoffs now (seemingly the key issue for the owners), and may prefer to hold that high-value chip for use when the sides sit down to discuss a new CBA. The players are expected to seek measures in the next CBA to increase overall competition, such as a reverse luxury tax that would effectively serve as a required floor on team payrolls.
If you’ve been a baseball fan for a while, you know that the sides simply don’t trust each other. As noted by Rosenthal and Drellich, the players hold a fear that Commissioner Rob Manfred would be free to cancel games if conditions (COVID) are deemed unsafe, impose doubleheaders, and otherwise implement measures that will have an impact on players’ pay and service time.
If the players do reject the MLB offer, with time so short before the expected start of spring training, it’s unlikely that a new proposal impacting the starting of camps could be made. The DH matter could be agreed to before the start of the season, as could expanded playoffs (the latter was agreed upon very close to start of the 2020 season).
It’s almost unfathomable that we are 17 days away from pitchers and catchers, and there’s still doubt about the reporting date, and the rules under which the season will be played.
Then again, after the labor issues that have dotted baseball’s landscape since the early 1970s, maybe this isn’t such a big surprise.