Rejoice, baseball fans: Major League Baseball will start on time after the players' union (MLBPA) rejected the league's proposal of delaying the season by one month, which also had expanded playoffs and the universal designated hitter connected to it.
A day of brusque, back-and-forth discussions between the league and the union, sources said, wound up as nearly everyone involved expected: with no deal to push back the season, and with the February 17 spring training report date and April 1 Opening Day still intact.
The proposal calls for players to receive 100 percent of their pay if the 154-game season is completed and not interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, the league is seeking an expanded, 14-team postseason in exchange for using the designated hitter in the National League. The union immediately balked, citing language in the proposal it believed would grant commissioner Rob Manfred more expansive powers to cancel games in the event of a potential COVID-19 outbreak.
And while the plan is for both Spring Training and the regular season to begin as scheduled, Major League Baseball noted that it is contingent on "reaching an agreement on health and safety protocols". MLBPA wants full pay regardless of the length of the season. The plan included shortening the season from 162 games to 154.
The basic agreement between owners and players expires on December 1.
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The MLBPA revealed that they received the offer to delay Spring Training and Opening Day late last week from the league. The rest of the playoffs can be held in designated warm-weather sites or domes, like previous year. Experimental rules for seven-inning doubleheaders and beginning extra innings with a runner on second base would continue for a second season. The union also believes fewer off days in a shortened season would be a safety concern. A year ago the sides argued about the number of games that would be played and the prorated salaries the players would receive, leaking new proposals so often it made your head spin.
The question was whether the union would counter.
Though nothing is ever simple when it comes to agreements between the league and players, it feels pretty safe to say they can agree quickly on protocols for the season after already having them in place past year. The Cactus League sent a letter to MLB requesting that spring training be delayed. Other issues, the league intimated, were open for negotiation, as well.
"We do not make this decision lightly", the union said in a news release. Players know firsthand the effort it takes to complete the abridged 2020 season, and we appreciate the fact that significant challenges lie ahead.
"This was a good deal that reflected the best interests of everyone involved in the sport by merely moving the calendar of the season back one month for health and safety reasons without impacting any rights either the players or the Clubs now have under the Basic Agreement or Uniform Player's Contract for pay and service time", the league released in a statement. But if positive tests for COVID-19 start piling up in Florida and Arizona, if camps are shut down and the season turns into a mess, remember that it was all so avoidable, all so unnecessary.