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The MLB season-delay offer isn’t as good as it seemed and players will likely reject it

This probably shouldn’t surprise you.

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Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

Sunday, I wrote here about a report that Major League Baseball had proposed to players a delay to the start of the 2021 season. This reportedly included full pay for a 154-game season and expanded playoffs.

It sounded good, at first glance, but when later details came out, the offer appeared to be not as good as originally thought.

Here are some of those details:

That... doesn’t make things look as good as they did Sunday. The fifth point in Eugene Freedman’s thread, the Commissioner’s ability to suspend the season or cancel games, would likely reduce player pay. Per this Reuters article from late Sunday, that, along with some other factors, are probably going to be a no-go for players:

The Major League Baseball Players Association is expected to reject a 154-game season proposal from MLB that would have led to the start of the campaign to be pushed back a month until April 28, according to USA Today on Sunday.

In The Athletic, Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich lay out some other reasons why players aren’t keen on this proposal:

MLB’s proposal does not guarantee the players will be paid for games lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, and also includes an element the players continue to oppose — an expanded postseason in 2021. The union believes the current deal governing the sport effectively guarantees 162 games of pay and service time — a point the league disputes — and wants any new arrangement to include an explicit promise of full pay, or at the least, greater gains in other areas. Its leverage is significant: The players do not have to agree to a revised arrangement for the 2021 season to be played.

You might wonder why players are opposed to an expanded postseason. The reason appears to be that the union feels that expanding the number of postseason teams would make teams less willing to spend on top free agents, since more teams could play in the October tournament without that sort of spending.

Regarding Rob Manfred’s power to suspend or cancel games — remember the “foreboding music” in Freedman’s tweet? — Rosenthal and Drellich write:

The proposal states that Manfred can suspend or cancel games under the following conditions:

• Government restrictions prevent more than five clubs from staging games in their home ballparks (even without fans in attendance).

• Government restrictions prevent or materially restrict travel by clubs within the United States.

• Manfred determines, after consultation with recognized medical experts and the union, that staging those games poses an unreasonable health and safety risk to players or staff.

• The number of players who are unavailable to perform because of COVID-19 is such that the competitive integrity of the season is undermined.

That would seem to give Manfred quite a bit of power — power that he does not have under the current CBA. I think you can see why players wouldn’t want to give that, especially since they have a labor agreement that dictates certain terms that Manfred and the owners now want to change.

Regarding a delayed start, there’s also this:

It’s February 1. Some teams have already announced reporting dates; those dates are only two to three weeks from now. This sort of discussion regarding delaying the 2021 baseball season should have happened in December, not late January/early February. Is it a good idea, in general, to delay the season, shorten the number of games, play a postseason that encroaches briefly in to November, given that the COVID-19 pandemic is still upending the way Americans live? Yes, it probably is. Speaking of Americans: At this writing, it seems very unlikely that the Toronto Blue Jays will be allowed to play in Canada, given that nonessential border crossings between the USA and Canada are still not permitted and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. If there’s to be a Triple-A season in 2021, they probably wouldn’t be able to play in Buffalo, either.

In conclusion, the owners’ proposal doesn’t seem to be the right way to modify the 2021 season. It’s skewed far too much to ownership’s side. Rosenthal and Drellich conclude:

The league’s proposal also includes revised health and safety protocols that would include penalties similar to those adopted by the NFL and NBA for players who violate the rules, sources said. But the bigger issues, as usually is the case with these parties, are those that involve economics. Barring a change in the next few days, they remain unlikely to be resolved. And hundreds of players and staff across the league are waiting for an answer.

They’re going to need to find a solution soon, these two warring parties, because there are spring training games scheduled this month — the Cubs are supposed to open the spring season 26 days from now against the Dodgers at Sloan Park. The way this has been proposed, though, isn’t the right way. And these sorts of proposals don’t bode well for the CBA negotiations that will come up next offseason. Welcome to the state of baseball in the year 2021.

I continue to believe that delaying the start of the 2021 season is a good idea, for COVID-19 reasons, for having a better chance of getting fans back in the park, for avoiding weather postponements when they might be added to COVID postponements.

But not like this. Try again, Rob.


Now that you know more about MLB’s season-delay proposal, how do you feel about it?

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