Players Reject League’s Proposal, Full Season Will Start on Time

The players union has officially rejected Major League Baseball’s proposal for a 154-game season that would have started about one month later and ended one week later, so the season will continue as originally scheduled. At the heart of the players’ rejection is a deep-seated distrust of the owners, but there were plenty of issues with the proposal.

Compressing the schedule to such an extent would mean fewer off-days and greater injury risk, not to mention limited ability to make up any postponed games. So while owners offered to pay 154 games the same as 162 — those details were murky for a while and I apologize for getting them wrong previously — the players were highly skeptical of the ability to complete the full schedule with a razor-thin margin for error.

Then there’s the idea that, despite the appeal to public health and safety, the owners’ proposal was really about trying to make as much money as possible. Pushing the start date back would likely mean playing a higher percentage of games with fans in the stands, with expanded playoffs once again bringing increased payouts from lucrative broadcast partnerships.

The players, on the other hand, would see disproportionately little of that additional windfall while putting themselves at greater risk for injury and possibly lost salary.

“We do not make this decision lightly,” read a statement from the union. “Players know first-hand the efforts that were required to complete the abbreviated 2020 season, and we appreciate that significant challenges lie ahead. We look forward to promptly finalizing enhanced health and safety protocols that will help Players and Clubs meet these challenges.”

A subsequent statement from the league laid out the details of its proposal, which would have seen the season starting on April 29 with the universal DH and a 14-team postseason format. MLB was also clear that the offer would not have impacted any player rights under either the CBA or the uniform player’s contract for pay and service time, a claim that doesn’t really hold up under scrutiny (the link is to a very informative Twitter thread about collective bargaining and what’s happening here).

“In light of the MLBPA’s rejection of our proposal, and their refusal to counter our revised offer this afternoon, we are moving forward and instructing our Clubs to report for an on-time start to Spring Training and the Championship Season, subject to reaching an agreement on health and safety protocols,” read MLB’s statement. “Our 2020 season taught us that when the nation faces crisis, the national game is as important as ever, and there is nothing better than playing ball.

Man, they are laying it on thick, and I didn’t even include the “Herculean effort” part. There’s almost as much spin here as a Trevor Bauer slider thrown with grip enhancer, certainly more than new Cub Trevor Williams can generate. As much as I disagree with their position in most cases, I have to admit that MLB does a very good job of rallying fans to view the players as the bad guys.

Though nothing is ever simple when it comes to agreements between the league and players, it feels pretty safe to say they can agree quickly on protocols for the season after already having them in place last year. Other than a few tweaks here and there, it should just be status quo.

Now we just have to hope everything goes off as smoothly as possible and the increasingly encouraging trends in COVID-19 rates continue. We all want baseball back, especially when that means we get the chance to be at the ballpark again, but the acrimony between the players and owners portends bad things for next offseason once the current CBA expires.

Damn, I can’t even find a way to enjoy the upcoming campaign without peeing in the Cheerios.

Ed. note: Jon Heyman noted that the league apparently did offer to eliminate language that the union felt gave Rob Manfred too much power to cancel games, thus giving him the ability to manipulate pay. That change is what would have kept the CBA and UPC rights in place, though there’s still more to this than just that tweak.

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