Major League Baseball has rejected the latest offer from the MLB Players Association for a 114-game regular season, according to multiple media reports.
The Athletic first reported the news, saying that MLB informed the union that it doesn’t intend to make a counteroffer to start the 2020 season.
Player Pay Remains Largest Sticking Point
The league proposed an 82-game season in which players would take additional salary cuts beyond the already agreed prorated pay, with highly-paid players taking the biggest hits. The MLBPA responded by proposing a longer schedule, but with the full prorated pay.
That leaves the two sides at an impasse. MLB officials believe that the wording of the March agreement gives commissioner Rob Manfred the right to determine the length of the season, provided the league pays out prorated salaries. That has led at least some within the league to push for a 50-game season – though no official proposal has been made.
While there may be benefits to a longer season, MLB owners worry that pushing the playoffs into November – which the players’ proposal would have done – increases the risks of losing the postseason to a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, some feel the risks are minimal compared to other sports that are planning to play in the fall.
“The NFL and college football – contact sports – could be playing in November, let alone December,” agent Scott Boras said, via The Athletic. “MLB, a social distancing sport, says it can’t play playoffs in November. Apparently the NFL and NCAA medical experts think differently.”
MLB Fears Losing Postseason Revenue
Holding the playoffs in their entirety – and perhaps even in an expanded format – would provide the revenue that would make playing a 2020 MLB regular season without fans worthwhile. While there has been much debate over whether teams will make or lose money by holding games in empty stadiums, the postseason would bring in $787 million in broadcast revenue this year.
While health concerns seem to be on the backburner for the moment, there are still outstanding issues as to whether MLB or other major American sports leagues can successfully return to play this year. COVID-19 is far from disappearing from the United States, and experiences in other countries have varied.
Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan plans to hold its Opening Day games on June 19. However, there are now concerns about beginning the season after two players on the Yomiuri Giants tested positive for the coronavirus. That caused the Giants to cancel an exhibition game against the Seibu Lions on Wednesday.
If MLB does hold a season in some form, teams will likely play games in their home stadiums, perhaps with a regional schedule limiting travel as much as possible. USA Today reported Thursday that MLB will not allow home TV and radio announcers to travel with their teams, instead having them call games from monitors in their home cities.