The depth of the rift between the Major League Baseball Owners and Players was highlighted in the details of the Major League Baseball Player Association’s 33-5 rejection of the Owners final proposal for the 2020 season on June 22. Rejecting the offer means $25 million in guaranteed playoff money for the players was rejected; an additional $33 million in salaries advanced during the outset of negotiations would not be forgiven, directly impacting the rank-and-file players, but not the game’s stars, and an expanded Playoff format for the 2020 and 2021 seasons was voted down.
The reasons? First the Players opting for a legal Hail Mary, as they are expected to file a $1 billion grievance against the Owners for negotiating in bad faith. Second, they didn’t want to generate too much money or cede any bargaining leverage to the Owners in advance of the negotiations for the next Collective Bargaining Agreement which runs through the end of the 2021 season. That’s when the real craziness will start.
Owners are not without blame in this situation. Faced with the prospect of zero fans in the stands and large revenue losses for each game they play, the unknowns presented by the COVID-19 Pandemic are impossible to plan for. However, during the most contentious part of the Owner-Player negotiations, where Owners were saying the game wasn’t profitable, a new media rights agreement between MLB and Turner Sports was announced, which will pay the league $3.2 billion over seven years. That did absolutely nothing to increase the Players level of trust with the Owners.
San Diego Union-Tribune Sports Columnist Nick Canepa wrote Sunday, June 28, 2020, that he thought the Major League Baseball season, comprised of 60 games played over 70 days would begin July 23-24, but due to COVID concerns, the season wouldn’t be completed. With the numbers of positive COVID cases reported across all levels and types of sports, I agree with him. Quarantining young athletes, who have disposable income, over a period of several months, just isn’t a workable long-term plan, regardless of the sport in question. MLB’s 101-page health protocol won’t be worth the paper it’s printed on if COVID-19 spreads rapidly through a team locker room. And players will be tested every other day. I’m hoping for the best, but I don’t see sports coming back in force until there is a COVID vaccine that is readily available to athletes and fans alike.