After several months of back-and-forth negotiations, Major League Baseball announced on Monday evening that the 2020 season has been scheduled to proceed under an agreement previously reached in March between the owners and the players’ union. The announcement indicates that the owners unanimously agreed to launch the campaign after further negotiations with the players failed to result in a deal.
The statement issued by the league is dependent upon two directives to the union—the players’ ability to report to camp within a week (by July 1) and the ratification of safety and testing protocols. The league is requesting that the union respond to the directives by 5 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday afternoon.
Prior to ownership’s decision to proceed with a season, the union rejected the league’s latest proposal surrounding a prospective 2020 campaign. The primary highlights of that specific proposal were a 60-game season, an expanded postseason, and no additional salary guarantees should the season be canceled due to coronavirus.
At the time, Tony Clark, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, issued the following statement back to the league:
The league countered with its own statement several hours later.
Today, the Major League Baseball Players Association informed us that they have rejected the agreement framework developed by Commissioner Rob 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:
- The universal DH for two years
- A guaranteed $25 million in playoff pools in 2020
- $33 million in forgiven salary advances that would increase the take home pay of 61% of major league players
- Overall earnings for players of 104 percent of prorated salary
- 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 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.
According to the new structure, there still will be a universal designated hitter in 2020 since it was agreed upon as part of the initial health and safety protocols, but its implementation will not automatically carry over to the 2021 season.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the regular season will begin around July 24-26 should the union agree to the training camp reporting dates, in addition to the proposed health and safety standards created by the league.
With respect to the coronavirus, MLB has shut down all spring training facilities in Florida and Arizona, as teams are preparing for deep cleanings of those locations, as well as instituting some kind of testing policy for the people who frequent them.
The Phillies, Blue Jays, Astros, Giants and Angels have all had players or visitors that either tested positive or showed symptoms of coronavirus in recent days at their respective training facilities. A total of 40 MLB players and staff members had positive COVID-19 tests in the last week, as reported by Nightengale over the weekend.
It is believed that a number of teams will conduct training camp activities at their respective home ballparks.
With the rise in cases among the MLB community, the union is concerned that the pandemic could conceivably shorten the season to fewer than the proposed 60 games.