Major League Baseball will not make a counteroffer to the players

Rob Manfred and Tony Clark
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Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic report that Major League Baseball will not make a counter-offer to the union’s latest proposal. They say that the owners will talk amongst themselves this weekend to discuss next steps. In response the MLBPA released a statement saying that it would convene “to determine next steps” and reiterated that the players “remain committed to getting back to work as soon as possible.”

The league’s last proposal was for 60 games. The players came back with a demand for 70 games. Both the league’s and the players’ offers included prorated payment for players. The difference between the sides was ten games and the players’ demand of a greater split of postseason revenues and an offer of expanded playoffs this year and next. The players also proposed waiving any grievance over the course the negotiations have taken. The owners consider waiving a potential grievance a priority.

There’s more to this, of course, than just the terms they’ve been bandying about. Yesterday Manfred claimed that he thought the players agreed to the 60-game offer, which was frankly implausible. It’s also likely that Manfred is fighting just as much with various factions of the ownership group as he is with the players. It’s also possible that Manfred is stalling, hoping that if negotiations are spread out long enough, there would be no choice but to implement the shorter schedule the owners prefer.

Also at play: the state of the pandemic. Today it was reported that at least eight people at the Phillies camp in Clearwater, Florida have tested positive for COVID-19. Within an hour of that came a report that the Blue Jays have closed down their spring training facility in nearby Dunedin, Florida after a player began exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. Those reports are likely not going to be the only ones in that vein. It’s possible, in fact, that things get so bad that the business disputes over a 2020 season are mooted by the practical impossibility of playing given the spread of the pandemic.

So what now? It would seem that, unless Manfred has a change of heart, he and the owners will simply impose a short season of about 50 games, forego the expanded postseason and take their chances with a grievance the players would almost certainly file. It’s also possible that the owners could claim that playing in 2020 is simply not possible, citing the pandemic, the business considerations or some combination of the two. If that were to happen it’s still likely that a grievance would be filed because, quite frankly, the players likely don’t trust the owners enough right now to believe that such a declaration would be made in good faith either.

All of which is to say that, after a couple of days of modest promise about a 2020 season, we’re right back where we were when the week began.