Today, MLB’s players voted down a particular proposal for the hoped-for 2020 season, which was the product of months of “negotiation,” a term I use loosely. The sides ultimately could not come to an agreement on what this season should look like.
But, because of the sides’ agreement from back in March, the Commissioner had the authority to lay out the league’s season plan, so long as the owners pay the players prorated salary. And that’s what is expected at this point, but it won’t necessarily be right away.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has no plans to implement a season tonight, or even tomorrow.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) June 22, 2020
It’s possible that this is just a matter of wanting to get the health and safety protocols finalized, as referenced today by the Players Association. It’s possible, if you’re a hopeful optimist, that there’s gonna be one more round of bargaining (lol). It’s possible, if you’re the kind of pessimist I’ve become, that what’s really happening is that Manfred does not have sufficient owners’ approval (needs 23) to mandate a season at this point, and now the health and safety issues will be used as cover to cancel the whole thing and try to save face.
Stay tuned: I hear Manfred is holding a call with owners tonight.
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) June 22, 2020
We will have so much more to say and unpack about what’s coming, but I have to try to take a break.
Whatever happens next, the lingering question is what will be the fallout of failing to reach a new agreement. Among the fair expectations on the negative side if a short, mandated season comes? I’ve said it before:
⇒ Much fewer games for the fans.
⇒ Much less money for the players.
⇒ Much less positive exposure for the sport.
⇒ Much more fan antipathy about the return.
⇒ Much more player hostility going forward, including a grievance.
⇒ Likely fewer players actually participating this year.
⇒ Definitely fewer player-involved extra activities.
⇒ No expanded playoffs unless there’s a separate agreement (good luck).
⇒ Likely even bigger fight about post-2021 CBA than already expected, with even less trust, less productive communication, and less cohesiveness at a time that – because of external circumstances – was going to require more.
And if the season gets dunked entirely this week or next week or whatever? Well, if it is credibly tied in the minds of fans to the financial fight and not the pandemic, then you can pretty much take all the ugliness for the sport that you can imagine and turn it up to 11. Not only will the sport have set hundreds of millions of dollars on fire, and obviously gained no new exposure or fans this year, but it will also have ensured that fans “returning” to the game next year will be vastly more limited. It’s remarkable how nightmarish all of this is, even setting the UNAVOIDABLE PAIN OF THE PANDEMIC aside. It was a brutal situation that has only been made worse.