Oh what a difference one day makes. Yesterday afternoon, Joel Sherman expressed a sense of pessimism on launching the 2020 MLB season, emanating out of both sides of the negotiating table. And today, Jon Heyman has heard the opposite, stating that he’s hearing “great confidence that there will be baseball this year, even after players/owners hit a stalemate in talks yesterday.” ‘Tis the nature of the beast, I guess.
But status-signaling aside, Heyman had a couple more material updates to the on-going negotiations this morning, which we’ll want to discuss.
First, the terms:
Owners believe there are 2/3 ways to play: 1) players accept or negotiate off owners’ sliding scale 82-game proposal (owners are willing to talk about less than the 40% paycut offered) 2) the commissioner mandates a very shortened season (50 or so games) with prorated a layer pay
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) June 4, 2020
As it stands, the players proposal is for 114 games and full pro-rated play, while the owners proposal is for 82 games with an extreme sliding scale of pay that surgically (and seemingly purposefully) drives a wedge between the highest and lowest paid players in the union.
But that’s not actually where things stand. Now that the owners have rejected the players proposal out of hand and have explicitly refused to send a counter-offer, the landscape has changed. Citing the language of the original March agreement, the owners feel empowered to dictate the length of the 2020 season – however short – so long as they pay the players their full prorated salaries, and have threatened to do exactly that with a 50-game proposal (about 1/3 pay, if you’re keeping score at home).
But according to Heyman, they’re willing to talk.
The “unwilling to send a counter offer” owners are now countering with two options for the players: (1) Accept your full prorated pay over the course of an extremely short season (~33% of their full salary), or (2) take your 82-games, but at our sliding scale of wages.
Initially, that sliding scale offered a 40% paycut on the 50% of wages the players had already agreed to. Put differently, that’d be about – surprise – 30% of the players salaries, which is right around the 50-game proposal at full prorated salaries (note: these are all estimated/rough numbers that will not be equal for every player).
Apparently now, the owners are willing to come down on that 40% cut, but I’m willing to bet the final sum won’t rise much above that 30-35% level. So, in terms of an olive branch, this isn’t much of one.
Ideally, you’d like to see the owners negotiate up from 50 games at full prorated pay or the players accept something slightly less than full prorated pay at 82 games. The total dollar amount is always going to be the balance – so changing the variables on both ends can only help so much – but that, to me, seems like the most fair way to get the most baseball this season.
Now, we must hope that the owners are simply posturing and are not actually willing to force the players to (1) play only 50 games (who wants just 50 games of baseball this year?) or (2) strike because they shouldn’t have to accept such significant paycuts.
And just to make things more complicated, there’s also this disagreement:
Owners are steadfast in seeking to end the MLB season by around Nov. 1 to give them the best chance to complete the postseason and avoid a 2nd wave. Meanwhile players, citing other sports’ provisional plans, say there’s no reason MLB can’t also play through November.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) June 4, 2020
To be fair, there are legitimate concerns about a second wave of the virus come the fall/winter, and with a disproportionate amount of money coming from the postseason plus the added competition of the NBA and NFL, I understand the owners concerns. Also, I want to see the playoffs and don’t want them to get wiped out by the virus. So, yeah, I understand. But the fact of the matter is if a deal gets done soon, there is time for 82 games and even a slightly, but safely expanded postseason. So my position remains: Negotiate up from 50 games at full proration, or play 82 games and offer just less than full prorated pay.