Looks Like Baseball is on the Horizon. Possibly. Maybe.
The painfully heated ping pong match between the MLB owners and the MLBPA just might have ended.
I got a text from my husband last evening that said “Baseball’s back!?” and I was a little surprised that my phone hadn’t already blown up with updates from ESPN and MLB with this information, as would have been the norm with such big news. I looked into it a bit further and saw that the league was going ahead with a sixty game season, just hours after the MLBPA rejected their last proposal of just that – sixty games. The league put out the following statement:
Today, the Major League Baseball Players Association informed us that they have rejected the agreement framework developed by Commissioner Manfred and Tony Clark. Needless to say, we are disappointed by this development .
The framework provided an opportunity for MLB and its players to work together to confront the difficulties and challenges presented by the pandemic. It gave our fans the chance to see an exciting new Postseason format. And it offered players significant benefits including:
1) The universal DH for two years
2) A guaranteed $25 million in playoff pools in 2020
3) $33 million in forgiven salary advances that would increase the take home pay of 61% of Major League players
4) Overall earnings for players of 104 percent of prorated salary
5) Over the last two days, MLB agreed to remove expanded Postseason in 2021 in order to address player concerns
In view of this rejection, the MLB Clubs have unanimously voted to proceed with the 2020 season under the terms of the March 26th Agreement. The provisions listed above will not be operative.
In order to produce a schedule with a specific number of games, we are asking that the Players Association provide to us by 5:00 p.m. (ET) tomorrow [Tuesday] with two pieces of information. The first is whether players will be able to report to camp within seven days (by July 1st). The second is whether the Players Association will agree on the Operating Manual which contains the health and safety protocols necessary to give us the best opportunity to conduct and complete our regular season and Postseason.
I read this and it looked a bit like a start date for the 2020 MLB season was upon us, and I was cautiously optimistic that we’ll be seeing real, actual, live Major League Baseball at the end of July. I have to wonder if we really will see baseball happen this season. The players told the league to name “When and Where” to start the season, and now the league has done it. The players wanted 70 games and a larger piece of the postseason pie – more than the $25 million referred to above. So what will they actually get now? Will the players file a grievance saying the league stalled on negotiations to ensure a shorter season and less pay? Will the league file a grievance saying the players are to blame for the mess? Or will the players come back and say sure we could make it to camp by July 1st, but it’s not safe to resume at all, since teams are starting to have players with positive Covid tests. Then what happens?
When and Where
First Rob Manfred said that he was 100% sure we’d see baseball this season. And then he said that there might not be baseball this season. “When and Where” became the battle cry for players over the last week or so after Tony Clark said the now famous line. But that was after the MLBPA rejected an offer of 72 games (and 80% of their prorated salaries) and now they’re stuck with just 60 games. The whole time they’ve been going back and forth, I’ve basically kept my head in the sand because it was too hard to keep track of all of the percentages and games. You guys, I did the math and you’re welcome. If I did this math correctly, with the 60 games they’ll be playing, they’ll get 37% of their originally contracted salaries. Under the previous proposals from MLB, the salary figures would have looked like this:
- March 26th: Agreement that players would receive prorated salaries based on number of games played, salary advance for players through end of April.
- May 11 Owner’s proposal: 82 game season, universal DH, 14 teams in the post season, 50/50 revenue split between owners and players. As I tried to figure out what that broke down to in terms of players salaries, it really doesn’t make sense, especially if the owners were claiming they’d be losing money all over the place if games were played without fans.
- May 26 Owner’s proposal: 82 game season, universal DH, and a sliding scale for salaries. Scale varied between 20% of the prorated salaries for the highest paid players ($20 million or more) to 72% of prorated salaries to the lowest paid players. This math makes one’s head explode, but to make it a bit clearer, say a player was scheduled to make $1 million. They’d get $362,500, or 36% of their original salary (close to what they’ll be making base on this 60 game plan now). Now take Mike Trout, the highest paid player in the league. He was scheduled to make $37,666,666 in 2020. Under the plan proposed on May 26, his salary would have been $3,766,666, which is just 10% of his salary. ** And this is where it got messy – people started losing interest in hearing the squabble between billionaires and millionaires, when even the lowest paid pro players would be making $202,680, which is still leaps and bounds more than the average baseball fan would be making.
- May 31 Players counter proposal: 114 games, play through October 31, expanded post season teams to 14, full prorated compensation. This would be about 70% of their original salaries.
- June 8 Owner’s proposal: 76 games, play through end of September, expanded post season to 16 teams, 75% of prorated salaries – which would equal about 35% of their original salaries. Players would be making about what the 60 game proposal is now, but playing 16 less games. Some view it as less work to do, some view it as a less meaningful season. Players at high risk for contracting Covid, or those living with high risk individuals, can opt out of play and still receive pay and service time.
- June 9 Players counter: 89 games, playing through October 10, 16-team postseason, full prorated salaries. This would equal just under 60% of their original 2020 salaries. Players at high risk for contracting Covid, or those living with high risk individuals, can opt out of play and NOT receive pay or service time. (Service time would impact contract deals down the road).
- June 12 Owner’s proposal: 72 games starting mid-July through September 27, maxing out at 80% of full prorated salaries, and an extra $50 million to go to the 16 playoff teams, bringing overall percentage to 83% of prorated salaries. This would equate to approximately 35.5% of original salaries. This is when Tony Clark said that further negotiation would be futile, tell players “When and Where”.
- June 17 Owner’s proposal: 60 games from July 19 – September 27, sixteen post season teams, and full prorated salaries. This equals 37% of the original salaries.
- June 18 Player’s counter: 70 games from July 19 – September 30, sixteen post season teams, full prorated salaries. Also included provisions for a 50/50 split for TV revenues for any additional post season games in 2021 if the postseason is expanded, a universal DH for this season and next, clubs can sell ads/patches on uniforms, and waiving of grievances under the March agreement. Total compensation for 2020 would be 43.2% of original 2020 salaries, plus any of the split revenues.
- June 19 MLB says take it or leave it, 60 games at full prorated salary. (37% of original)
- June 22 Players reject this offer again, calling Manfred’s bluff on the potential for no season.
- June 22 MLB says they are imposing a 60 game season at full prorated salary pending players saying they can be at camp by July 1 and they’re good with the safety protocols that MLB has put together.
So what does all of this math mean?
Looking at the proposals above, let’s just say that Player X makes the league average of $4.38 million per year, but for nice round numbers, let’s boost him up to $5 million per year (look at me being all Scott Boras and getting the player more money). In a 162-game season, that would be $30,864.20 per game. On March 26, Player X assumes if he gets to play half a season, he’ll make $2.5 million this season and still make $30,864.20 per game.
- Under the first MLB proposal, on May 11, it’s not clear how much he would make, since the owners aren’t opening the books and there’s no way to know what the 50% of revenue share would actually be, so he (the MLBPA) rejects the deal.
- Under the proposal from the owners on May 26, at 82 games, he’d be making 50% of his prorated full salary ($2,530,864.40), or $15,432.10 per game, for a total of $1,265,432.20 for the season. On May 31 the MLBPA countered that Player X should make around $3.5 million for the season, still $30,864.20 per game.
- Under the June 8 MLB proposal, Player X would make $23,148.15 per game or $1,759,259.40 for the season – 35% of what he should have received. On June 9, Players Association countered that he should make his full $30,864.20 per game, or $2,746,913.80 for the season, or 60% of his original salary.
- Under the June 12 MLB proposal, Player X would make $24,691.20 per game, or a total of $1,777,766.40 (35.5% of original.) MLBPA says nope.
- On June 17, 19, and 22, MLB says fine, full $30,864.20 per game, but you’re only going to make $1,851,852 this season (37% of Player X’s original salary). Players still wanted 70 games, where Player X would make $2,160,494, or 43.2% of his original salary, and says we’re done negotiating. MLB holds firm.
So can we actually start rejoicing?
Under the imposed schedule we’re seeing, Player X will now be getting his full $30,864 per game. However, he and his teammates won’t be playing nearly as many games as they’d hoped, and the players can still file a grievance against the league for violating the terms the players thought they were agreeing to in March. Players agreed that the league could impose the number of games played once the pandemic play was figured out, but they assumed that meant that they’d get their full pro-rated amounts. By stalling the way the owners and Manfred did, MLB forced a shorter season on the players, thus reducing their salaries to just 37% rather than the 50.6% they could have had if play resumed early enough to fit in the originally offered 82 games in early May.
There’s still the very real possibility that players reject the safety protocols. There’s still the very real possibility that players say it’s not worth it to show up for just 37% of their salaries when there’s a chance Covid-19 will run rampant through a clubhouse. Since it was announced last week that the Phillies have seen players and staff testing positive, they’ve gotten more positive test results (for a total now of twelve), and we don’t know how many more might be coming. Other teams including the Astros, Angels, and Giants, have had confirmed cases of Covid among players or staff. Assuming the players agree to be at camp on July 1 and they’re feeling like MLB has health and safety protocols in proper order, yes, we can rejoice! But some players might say forget it, and the whole house of cards crumbles.
Even if MLB clears the hurdles of players accepting safety protocols and players showing up to camp on July 1, there’s the next hurdle of setting the schedule and where games will be played. One such hurdle was brought up earlier today as Canada hasn’t cleared players to play there yet. MLB has yet to submit a plan to Canadian health authorities that is required for the Blue Jays and any opponents to play in Toronto. Players entering Canada may be required to quarantine for 14 days, and the United States-Canada border remains closed to nonessential travel until at least July 21. As of now, baseball would not be considered essential for travel. This could mean that Blue Jays games might be played in their Spring Training facility in Dunedin, Florida – but the facility was shut down after a player came down with coronavirus symptoms (along with the rest of the MLB training facilities). The hope is to see players in their own ballparks, but only time will tell if this is possible.
There is at least one small victory for everyone: The postseason format remains at ten teams: three division champions and two wild card teams. This part, we absolutely can rejoice over, as the fourteen (or more) team idea would have been a disaster, allowing teams that didn’t even play .500 ball to get their piece of the postseason pie. The league was “disappointed” that they wouldn’t get to expand the post season to a sixteen team format this year – which was basically their way of sneaking Manfred’s
terrible questionable plan to expand the postseason to fourteen teams just before the pandemic hit. This doesn’t mean that we won’t see the expansion in the future, but for now we can take comfort in knowing they can’t sneak it in using coronavirus as their scapegoat.
So for now, one must remain cautiously optimistic that the season actually begins in a month. With states reopening and seeing spikes in coronavirus cases, all of this arguing might have been for nothing and the virus could shut down the season for good. A schedule will still need to be set. Play could start and get interrupted due to a second wave of the virus. We really don’t know what will happen, so it’s fair to not gt our hopes up at this time. Fans can’t handle the unknown and getting their hearts broken again if MLB says the season will start and then doesn’t. After all of the arguing between owners and players, will the fans even care? (The answer will still be 100% Yes. Don’t lie, you’ll be watching.)
As this was being published, the players agreed to the July 1st start to training. Health and safety protocols are still under review.