Blue Jays: Why there might not be a 2020 season after all

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 18: MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred visits "Mornings With Maria" with Maria Bartiromo at Fox Business Network Studios on December 18, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 18: MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred visits "Mornings With Maria" with Maria Bartiromo at Fox Business Network Studios on December 18, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images) /

After guaranteeing there would be a MLB season last week, commissioner Rob Manfred was less confident on Monday, and it’s not a good sign.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought frustration to baseball fans for several months now, but lately that’s a secondary focus when it comes to getting back on the diamond.

The bigger issue of late has been negotiations between the MLB and the MLBPA, and things haven’t been going well at all. To that end, commissioner Rob Manfred spoke on Monday and didn’t exactly leave a feeling of optimism, walking back his guarantee last week that there would be a 2020 campaign of some sort.

Obviously we know there is a disagreement about the financials, but is that really all that’s keeping baseball from happening in 2020? It’s a significant piece, but it’s not the whole pie I’m afraid.

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Starting there though, that would be the source of the latest frustrations from the player’s side. That’s mostly because the owners have barely budged on what they’re offering, even if the specifics have been a little bit different. They’ve made three offers, and after the latest, the MLBPA responded with “It’s time to get back to work”. That statement was made with the idea that there would be a MLB season regardless of how negotiations went, and before Manfred’s change of tone on Monday.

As of now, here are the offers that we know of from the MLB side:

  • The first on May 26: 82 games with a sliding salary scale (approx. 33% of their expected salary)
  • The second on June 8: 76 games at 75 percent prorated pay (approx. 35% of their expected salary)
  • The latest on June 12: 72 games at 80 percent prorated pay (approx. 36% of their expected salary)

As you may have noticed, there is very little difference between these offers, especially when you look at the pair that came just a few days apart. I can’t say I blame the players for arguing that it’s the same deal with a different name, because that’s basically what we’re looking at here. There’s also the idea that for these numbers to work that there would have to be a post-season, something that can’t be guaranteed with the Coronavirus pandemic still active across the world. Alternatively, the MLBPA has made proposals and offered financial concessions throughout this process, something they don’t feel is being reciprocated.

What complicates things even further is that we’re now wading into some unfortunate territory when it comes to these negotiations. It’s now more or less expected that the MLBPA will file a grievance against the league once a season has been officially scheduled, and that may not be something Manfred or the owners are wanting to deal with. It could potentially open the owners up to financial scrutiny that they’re not interested in enduring, and let’s face it, the players have a pretty good case against them.

As a result, the league has even gone as far as sending a letter to the MLBPA, indicating that games will not be scheduled unless the players agree to waive any claims of a violation of agreement. From Ronald Blum of the Associated Press:

"“MLB informed the union it would announce a schedule and a date for the resumption of spring training if the union agrees to waive claims that MLB violated the March 26 agreement between the sides or if the union agreed to an expedited grievance procedure. MLB said absent a solution, the dispute would remain an impediment to starting play.”"

Sounds encouraging, doesn’t it? I know I’m simplifying things here a little bit, but the league has essentially said, “back down or you’ll get nothing”. We’ll see how it works out for them, but right now it feels like the players have the upper hand, even if the league still holds the cards to a 2020 season.

Last but not least, we’re not exactly through the pandemic either, and we’ve yet to see a resumption of major sports in North America. The NHL appears on track to return sooner than later, and the NBA is at a crossroads that could potentially see the same. That said, there are sections of the United States that are still seeing surges of the virus, and there’s still plenty of fear about a second wave this fall. There are already reports of anonymous players and staff having tested positive, and if that were to happen during a re-launch of the season, it would be hard for the league to continue.

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I’ve done my best to stay positive and maintain hope that we’ll see big league baseball again this year, but after the last few days I’m not so confident. Here’s hoping I’m wrong.