Back and Forth and Back Again: Players Apparently Willing to Take Owners Up on Threat to Massively Shrink the Season

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Back and Forth and Back Again: Players Apparently Willing to Take Owners Up on Threat to Massively Shrink the Season

Chicago Cubs

Normally, you’d love to see a back and forth and back again when two sides are negotiating. It’s just that, in baseball, it rarely seems like a negotiation anymore. It’s just two sides going back and forth saying no to each other. Sometimes justified, sometimes not.

At last check from what we could see on the outside, MLB owners were holding firm to only two possible paths to a deal with the players on a start of the season: either the players accept additional salary cuts, beyond prorated salary, or the owners would unilaterally impose a dramatically shortened season, with prorated pay.

Based on a union statement tonight, the players are flat-out not going to consider reducing pay. And it seems like they are responding to the owners short-season threat by saying: fine, bring it on.

The full statement from MLPA chief Tony Clark, via Jeff Passan:

The players want to play, even at a time when there are risks to their health. But they are not willing to subsidize the owners’ projected losses (for which the owners have also reportedly balked at providing full financial data) in order to play in a riskier time for less money.

You know what? I don’t blame them. If I were the players, I’d be pretty frustrated that the owners are unwilling to negotiate up from 50 games at prorated pay. That’s how this should be going.

So the ball, it would seem, is in the owners’ court. If they decide to unilaterally impose a 50-ish-game season, then maybe the players will report and play it out. And maybe a number of players will decide the compensation combined with the injury and health risks in a shortened season aren’t worth it. Maybe a lot of players. We don’t know.

We do know that the sides do still have to agree on health and safety protocols – an agreement I bet is absolutely no sure thing if the league is going to cut the season down this much. We also know that without the players’ agreement, there can be no expanded playoffs, no additional events, no on-field broadcast enhancements, etc. How much of that are the players going to agree to if the owners just cut them off at the knees?

(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

In the end, for today, it’s Thursday, June 4. The prevailing opinion was that it would take about 10 days for teams and facilities to be ready for players to begin Spring Training Part Two, so even if the sides magically agreed to a deal tomorrow, you’d be looking at a July 1 Opening Day as something approaching an impossibility.

Of course, if the season is going to be a mere 50 games, then the sides have plenty of time left to fight publicly before the season starts.

I said I was getting out of the prognosticating business, so I won’t draw any conclusions here. Again, I’m just pointing out the timeline. No deal this week almost certainly means – at best – a start well past the first week of July, means a shorter season regardless of the agreement, and means precise wasted time when baseball could have been THE sport to come back and dominate the conversation.

Even as they continue talking, baseball is blowing this.

It remains to be seen how the availability of fans in some parks would impact these talks. It seems like a potentially major issue that isn’t being discussed yet.

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.