MLB Owners Reportedly Approve Proposal for 2020 Season; Will Be Sent to Players

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMay 11, 2020

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred answers questions at a press conference during MLB baseball owners meetings, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
John Raoux/Associated Press

Major League Baseball owners reportedly have approved a proposal they will present to players Tuesday, which is expected to call on the union to make concessions beyond prorating their salaries for games canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported ownership has approved the proposal, with Ronald Blum of the Associated Press reporting the proposal would start the season "around the Fourth of July weekend in ballparks without fans."

Per Blum, spring training would start in "early to mid-June," and "each team would play about 82 regular-season games: against opponents in its own division plus interleague matchups limited to AL East vs. NL East, AL Central vs. NL Central and AL West vs. NL West."

The All-Star Game would "likely" be called off under the proposal.

As far as salaries go, Blum reported teams "will propose that players receive the percentage of their 2020 salaries based on a 50-50 split of revenues MLB receives during the regular-season and postseason"

The Athletic's Evan Drellich first reported on May 7 that MLB owners plan to ask players to further reduce their pay, perhaps via a revenue-sharing system.

Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports reported there will be a "war" between the two sides if such an offer is presented. MLB and the union previously reached a financial agreement in March that called for prorated pay for the players based on the number of games played.

Per Drellich, the players are likely to "receive such a plan poorly" because owners are attempting to renege on a deal that was already agreed upon and might think owners will try to make revenue sharing a long-term plan. While we will get a better idea of what the owners are offering after Tuesday's meeting, it's possible (if not likely) MLB is heading toward a labor dispute.

Unlike most other major sports leagues in the U.S., there is not a set yearly revenue split in MLB. Baseball runs on more of a free market, which allows it to avoid things like a salary cap and floor.

That makes these types of negotiations more difficult than they are for leagues like the NBA, which has a set revenue split. If the player salaries exceed that split due to the pandemic, they will be forced to pay back salary next season. MLB offers neither the players nor the owners such a guarantee.

Rosenthal noted the proposal by ownership could call for players to take a set revenue share for the 2020 season only. That would allow owners to recoup any money paid over that split. Even if baseball returns at some point this summer, it will almost certainly do so without fans—taking away a significant chunk of revenue. It is also unclear how local television contracts would work, given that games would likely be played at a centralized location.

By attempting to reconfigure MLB's collective bargaining on the fly, ownership is putting the 2020 season at greater risk and setting up poor optics for all sides. Unemployment rose to 14.7 percent in April, the highest it has been since the Great Depression. A revenue fight between billionaires and millionaires runs the risk of alienating fans, many of whom are worried about their own futures during the pandemic.

Optics will be even worse for ownership because it would be the players putting themselves at risk, and in many cases leaving their families, to return to the field. 

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