Even though months of haggling ended in an impasse Monday, Major League Baseball apparently will play ball this year.
After the players union executive board reportedly voted 33-5 against team owners' offer of a 60-game schedule, Major League Baseball announced that the clubs voted unanimously "to proceed with the 2020 season."
The implemented schedule will be for 60 games, according to multiple media reports, though ESPN stated that it could be anywhere from 50 to 60 games.
There had been concern that a minority faction of owners wanted to cancel the season completely, with players' salaries possibly outweighing the income that could be generated by holding games with empty stadiums amid the coronavirus pandemic.
MLB's statement read, "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 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."
A short time earlier, the MLB Players Association tweeted a statement that read, "Earlier this evening, the full Board reaffirmed the players' eagerness to return to work as soon and as safely as possible. To that end we anticipate finalizing a comprehensive set of health and safety protocols with Major League Baseball in the coming days, and we await word from the league on the resumption of spring training camps and a proposed 2020 schedule.
"While we had hoped to reach a revised back to work agreement with the league, the Players remain fully committed to proceeding under our current agreement and getting back on the field for the fans, for the game, and for each other."
By rejecting MLB's latest proposal, the union preserves its right to file a grievance over the length and financial terms of the season, maintaining that owners didn't negotiate in good faith. Manfred has made the same accusation regarding the MLBPA's negotiation strategy.
Due to the union's vote on Monday, MLB announced that several facets of its final offer will not be enacted:
- Use of the designated hitter in both leagues in 2020 and 2021
- A guaranteed $25 million in playoff pools in 2020
- $33 million in forgiven salary advances, that, according to MLB, would increase the take-home pay of 61 percent of the players.
- Overall earnings for players that MLB stated would amount to 104 percent of their prorated salaries
- The removal of plans to expand the 2021 postseason "in order to address player concerns"
Last-ditch attempts for MLB and the MLBPA to reach an agreement reportedly were sought on Monday as the window to hold a season continues to close.
The Athletic analyst Jim Bowden tweeted that the proposal the union rejected Monday would have given players their full prorated salaries for 60 games, but it would not have guaranteed salaries if games weren't played.
The vote was initially due to be held Sunday, but a large number of positive COVID-19 tests caused a delay.
Citing two sources close to the situation, USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported that 40 MLB players and staff members tested positive in the last week. Nightengale added that Manfred and MLBPA executive director Tony Clark exchanged emails with "tweaks" to their proposals.
According to Nightengale, the recent uptick in COVID-19 infections will push the start of the season back to July 26 at the earliest, with spring training resuming no earlier than June 29.
On Sunday, ESPN's Jeff Passan reported Manfred wrote a letter to Clark offering to cancel expanded playoffs and the universal designated hitter for 2021 (the owners' latest proposal had those elements in place for 2020 and '21). But, Passan added, "Players are concerned about giving up leverage of playoffs for naught."
Nightengale reported Manfred also promised that players on non-guaranteed contracts who were arbitration-eligible in 2019 but released during spring training would receive full termination pay.
The season was scheduled to start March 26, but the coronavirus pandemic led to the ongoing delay.