MLB owners agreed Monday to the proposal that will be officially sent to the Players Association with the hope of initiating a new round of negotiations as early as Tuesday that most optimistically would begin spring training in about a month and start the season in the first week of July.
The 30 control people for the teams were briefed Monday by commissioner Rob Manfred and his staff on what exactly will be put on paper and given to the union for its perusal. MLB and the Players Association have been informally speaking for weeks about these issues, so the union already has a strong idea about what the key elements will be.
The current plan is likely to offer an 82-game schedule in which teams would play against division rivals and the regional division in the other league — so the AL East vs. the NL East, for example. It is possible teams will play longer series than three or four games. That plus the regionalizing of the schedule is designed to limit as much travel as possible.
The current plan is for 30-man rosters, at least initially, with a 20-man taxi squad to provide depth as the season goes along. There also will be a proposal for a universal DH and playoffs expanded from 10 to 14 teams.
Still, the hope is to play the postseason in as much of October as possible, preferably in home stadiums if neutral sites can be avoided. MLB is concerned about a second wave of the coronavirus coming and making games in November more untenable. And there also are concerns that pushing into November could put MLB into even greater conflict with a multitude of other sporting events and leagues that are having to redo their schedules as well.
All of these issues are expected to take further negotiations but not provide considerable hurdles to agreement — though the union is believed to want to play as many regular-season games as possible, so more than 82, because players are paid during a regular season.
The big obstacles are going to be MLB’s ability to display protocols, personnel and equipment that make the players feel safe about returning not only to stadiums, but to buses, planes and hotels. And then there is the issue of pay.
MLB’s proposal is going to offer the players a percentage of revenue — USA Today reported it would be 48 percent.
The union is currently locked into that as a non-starter. First, the Players Association has always seen any shared revenue plan as putting them on a slippery slope to a salary cap. Second, the union has stated that the March 26 agreement with MLB guaranteed them a prorated portion of their 2020 salaries for games played — so 50.6 percent in an 82-game season.
MLB has said the March 26 agreement states that pay would have to be discussed further if games were not played with spectators — and if the MLB season gets started it will at least begin without fans. The union has said that item in the March 26 pact had to do with the Manfred’s right to financially decide if it was worthwhile to start without fans not change the player’s salary structure. Plus, the union feels that its players are the ones who would be taking on the risks to play without a vaccine and should not have to be further stripped of pay.
MLB has said that roughly 40 percent of its revenue is derived from ticket sales and its associated items such as concessions, souvenirs, parking, luxury boxes, etc.
Just how entrenched both sides are in these positions will become more obvious with the union officially receiving a document Tuesday and subsequent negotiations on the content.