A regular season that opens in late July, holds 50 or 60 games and concludes with an expanded postseason in October was introduced by commissioner Rob Manfred as part of the most recent negotiations between owners and players, sources said Monday.
Not yet able to reach a compromise on player salaries across a longer season, Manfred in effect offered to enforce the terms of a March 26 agreement that granted him powers to determine when it was safe to start the season. Under that plan, and tailored to what owners choose to spend on player salaries, players would receive their prorated salaries, a point of emphasis for the union during negotiations, along with providing Major League Baseball’s owners economic relief through a season significantly shorter than those previously proposed by the owners and the players.
The union does not believe it has received the financial information from the league to justify a further reduction in player salaries. It does intend to respond to the offer, though on Monday did not appear to be viewing the latest proposal favorably. ESPN first reported the details.
While a delay in the opening of the season might further diminish the risks of playing during a pandemic, the impetus of the offer was not health related. The sides are attempting to bridge an economic gap team owners believed was widened by the players’ most recent proposal — a 114-game season with full prorated salaries followed by an expanded postseason in November, with mechanisms for salary deferrals if the postseason was canceled.
Owners had offered an 82-game season with a sliding scale of salary reductions that most severely impacted the wealthier players and included revenue sharing elements.
Players accepted a pay cut when they agreed in March to prorated salaries. The sides have argued the intent of a portion of that agreement regarding further economic negotiations in the event games were played without fans.
Owners say they could not afford to pay players’ salaries because of the revenues lost to games without fans, which, due to coronavirus protocols, is how a season would have to start.
Among the many moving parts in trying to reopen camps and begin a season in a global pandemic, the season’s length is critical, as is the assurance of an expanded postseason, where owners would expect to recoup money lost to a regular season played in empty ballparks.
The league says its health experts warn of a possible second wave of the virus in the fall, which is why it seeks to hold its postseason in October rather than push it into November.
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