MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said MLB is trying to negotiate return-to-play terms "through the media" in efforts to resume a season currently delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The remarks, made to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, were in response to comments from Dan Halem, a top aide of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred.
From Halem to Sherman via text:
"The one piece of good news out of [Sunday's] meeting is that Tony Clark acknowledged that the March Agreement contemplated another negotiation over player salaries if the 2020 season could not be played in front of fans. We were concerned based on media reports if players knew that. Tony told us the players were aware that the March Agreement did not resolve the issue of player salaries in a season without fans. And he said the players' decision to accept nothing less than 100 percent of their prorated salaries was due to the risks of playing the season, not because they were promised it in the March 26 agreement."
When told of the comments, Clark sent the following remarks via email to Sherman:
"Dan's quote about Sunday's meeting is purposefully misleading and inaccurate. We have an agreement on compensation that says clearly how players get paid in the event games are played — pro rata. In fact, the league recently confirmed in writing that, 'We agree with the Association that, under the Agreement, players are not required to accept less than their full prorated salary.'
"We have never denied that MLB has the ability to come back and try to persuade us to change that agreement based on their economic concerns. They've tried unsuccessfully. In fact, Rob confirmed [Sunday] that, 'We can pay you 100 percent of salary right now.' This is all part of the league's attempts to negotiate through the media instead of focusing on how to bring baseball back to its fans."
News regarding negotiations between the two sides does not sound promising.
Players made their feelings clear about MLB's proposal, which called for player revenue to be derived from 50 percent of the league's revenue rather than the salary structure, per Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic.
Clark said that point was a non-starter and accused the league of taking "advantage of a global health crisis to get what they've failed to achieve in the past."
MLB also wanted players to agree to a salary structure on a sliding scale in which the highest-paid players (above $20 million) would make just 20 percent of their salary in an 82-game season, per ESPN's Jeff Passan.
On Monday, MLBPA sent a proposal back, with Passan providing details: "Players have held out for a full prorated portion of their salaries based on a March 26 agreement with the league, and in an offer Sunday proposed a 114-game schedule that would cover 70.3% of their original salaries. A 50-game schedule with full pro rata would pay the players 30.8% of that number."
In return, MLB is expected to propose a 50-game season that would include the league paying prorated salaries, per Passan.
Ultimately, there exists a real possibility that no MLB season occurs, and ESPN's Buster Olney explained what that would mean.
"If that doesn't happen—if they can't agree on a deal to play in 2020—baseball will become a loathed presence on North America's sporting landscape, scorned by many fans," he wrote. "The labor fight will merely be deferred, with escalation in some form all but assured because of the unresolved issues."
The MLB season was officially delayed on Thursday, March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was supposed to begin on Thursday, March 26 with all 30 teams in action on Opening Day.