With just over two weeks before pitchers and receivers showed up for spring training, Major League Baseball sent a proposal to MLB Players Association that would see the season shortened to 154 games, from 162, and other aspects which, if they are not approved, are the basis for the schedule to respect the parameters of a normal regular season as defined in the collective agreement in force.
According to several sources within the MLB and MLBPA who requested anonymity due to continuing negotiations, the offer would see players schedule 154 games but would be paid for a full 162 game season. In an effort to give players and the general public more time to get vaccinated, in the hopes that new cases and deaths from Covid-19 tend to decline, the league has come up with a compressed schedule that would see the Spring training begins Monday March 22. The regular season would start on Wednesday April 28e, and ends October 10 instead of October 3 with the playoffs ending in November. The season would start with 18 scheduled days off, with the schedule allowing 12 double doubles per team.
While the league has already offered to extend the season until November, according to Los Angeles Times, network partners prefer the playoffs to end in October, but FOX, which hosts the World Series, is flexible as long as the playoffs last a week in November. Unlike last year, the proposal does not include a site-neutral playoffs – whether in hot climates or in a dome – which would make it easier to schedule television networks.
As part of the proposal, the league is seeking an increased number of playoff teams of 14, down from 16 in 2020, but down from 10 in the current collective agreement. In addition, the designated hitter would be used universally in the National and American leagues.
The proposal was presented to MLBPA on Friday with the request for a response as to whether to accept or counter-offer earlier this week. The union is not required to make a counter-offer and may summarily reject the offer. At this stage of negotiations, the structure of a normal regular season as defined in the current collective agreement would be the default rule.
Although the players’ union did not reject the offer, sources indicate that the proposal has significant problems to allow its approval.
While players would receive a full season’s salary for just 154 games played, the compressed schedule under the pandemic creates a scenario in which Commissioner Rob Manfred could exercise his powers to cancel games more broadly. While the commissioner already has these powers for emergencies such as natural disasters, the pandemic has created a climate in which canceled games would be applied more widely. Last season, on a shortened 60-game schedule, two teams – the St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers – played 58 due to a cancellation. In cases where Manfred exercises his power to cancel matches, players will not be compensated for those lost. The Players Association considers the compressed schedule to increase such a risk, not only because of the Covid outbreaks, but a bit of slack later in the year when weather events could cause cancellations.
As for the Expanded Playoffs, unlike 2020, players weren’t offered a percentage of TV playoff earnings. Instead, players would fall back on the CBA’s provision which provides for a complex system in which a percentage of attendance-related grid income is distributed based on the number of games in a particular series. It is still not clear that full participation will be allowed by the time the 2021 playoffs arrive, reducing the playoff ‘shares’ that players could receive if an attendance percentage were imposed by the authorities. sanitary facilities.
MLBPA also sees the increased number of playoff teams as a deterrent for clubs to spend on free agents, as it gives teams an easier path to the playoffs. It is possible that one or more teams under .500 could advance to the playoffs.
The players had previously rejected an offer of Universal DH in exchange for the extended playoffs. Players have been looking for universal DH for some time as it extends the lives of veteran players who can switch to DH as defense becomes a handicap, and these veteran players most often earn high salaries. But as a bargaining chip, it is seen as weak given that homeowners also get protection for their expensive and often fragile assets in pitchers, which would no longer knock and stay off the grassroots path.
Complicating the issues for the owners and Manfred, revenue sharing will be instituted for the coming season after being suspended for the 2020 season. Historic teams in stadiums with large seating capacities such as the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Dodgers. New York Yankees would be the ones who would share the income with clubs in small markets such as the Kansas City Royals and the Pittsburgh Pirates. These big clubs in the market are the first not to have stadiums open to limited fan attendance from the start, while a club like the Royals may be able to open the season with a few fans in the stands. The Kansas City Chiefs of the NFL have seen limited fan participation, and like Arrowhead Stadium, the Royals are playing in an outdoor stadium that should allow that to happen. In doing so, the Royals could see revenue sharing while enjoying limited fan participation, while the Yankees and Dodgers would contribute revenue sharing without enjoying that gate-related income. This case of some clubs being able to accommodate supporters while others cannot while also having a revenue sharing system creates the possibility of economic disparity within the league.
The MLB offer comes at a time when the league had asked clubs to prepare players to show up for spring training. Some pitchers are already in locations near the spring training facilities. While MLBPA is still reviewing the league’s offer and it will likely be rejected, there is still time to deal with aspects of the proposal at a later date. Although conditions are very different from 2020 – the country was locked down, but the league was able to get through the season cut short; The NFL, NBA and NHL all play now, some with fans in the stands – the possibility that an agreement on some of these issues could be reached until the 11th hour before the start of the regular season, like this. was the case last year. If that didn’t happen, players and owners would lead the season under the current collective agreement which expires on December 1.