DETROIT – The weekend was an emotional roller coaster for baseball fans as reports about negotiations between players and coaches bounced back and forth faster than a professional ping pong match.
At the time of our last update, negotiations were in shambles. Owners refused to budge even an inch toward an agreement, no counter offers were expected and the players were planning to file a grievance against the league for negotiating in bad faith.
Commissioner Rob Manfred went from “100% sure” there would be some kind of season to not confident any games would be played. It was, in a word, disastrous.
Deal or no deal?
Moments after we published a column slamming the owners for allowing their greed to ruin baseball, reports started to surface that Manfred and Clark had met face-to-face to try to work out a deal by the weekend. Jon Heyman reported that the framework for a deal had been reached.
It was the most encouraging news of the entire saga, and it lasted all of 10 minutes.
While MLB came out and insisted the framework for a deal was agreed upon, the Players Association released a statement telling everyone to pump the brakes.
Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark today released the following statement: pic.twitter.com/MNAVfzx75C— MLBPA Communications (@MLBPA_News) June 18, 2020
Finally, the owners had relented and offered the players full prorated pay -- something the union was unwilling to budge on since it was agreed upon in March.
But the players, who had been rallying around Clark’s “tell us when and where” on social media, wanted to play more games.
The proposal from MLB was for 60 games with full prorated pay, 16 playoff teams for 2020 and 2021, a universal designated hitter and a waiver of grievances from both sides.
After a glimmer of hope, this turned into another public spitting match between the two sides, as Manfred claimed he thought they had a deal and Clark said it was a proposal, not an agreement.
A counter offer from the players came the following day, and it did not go over well with ownership.
The union offered a 70-game season with full prorated pay, and most of the other details matched the owners’ proposal.
One aspect of the proposal that stood out was the regular season end date: Sept. 30. The owners have been adamant about ending the regular season by Sept. 27 to maintain the television dates laid out for postseason games.
By all accounts, the owners were “outraged” about the counter, believing they had reached a deal to play 60 games. It was a mess, and while the players seemingly went back on their “when and where” motto, it looked much worse on the league because it still wasn’t willing to negotiate.
Manfred said the negotiations “need to end,” but the offer was rejected.
Players to vote on 60-game offer ... maybe?
The Players Association was informed the league wouldn’t respond to its counter offer, leaving the 60-game proposal as the only potential deal on the table.
Players were reportedly set to take a vote on the deal at some point in the near future, but then the coronavirus (COVID-19) reminded everyone why these negotiations were happening in the first place.
Massive COVID-19 spikes in Florida and Arizona -- the likely sites for a second round of spring training -- sparked concerns about playing there. All teams shut down their spring training facilities for cleaning, and an outbreak of the coronavirus was reported in the Philadelphia Phillies camp.
Amid the spike of positive cases, the players announced they would delay their vote beyond the original Sunday deadline.
The delay was partially because players believed waiving their right to a grievance was worth more than 60 games, but they also reportedly wanted to assess the coronavirus situation before making a decision.
That was Saturday. By Sunday, the players were reportedly planning to hold a vote that day because assessing the full scope of the COVID-19 outbreak would take too much time.
Late hope, then silence
After news broke about the players holding a vote Sunday, there were reports that Manfred was trying to sweeten the deal.
The owners made changes to the coronavirus safety protocols and the proposed 2021 season. If the 2020 season was cut short, the league would cancel expanded playoffs and the universal DH in 2021, according to Jeff Passan.
With those offers coming in and the players hesitant to let the commissioner simply mandate a season, there was to be a vote. None was made public, however, and since not much has been kept secret throughout negotiations, it’s fair to believe no vote has yet taken place.
If and when the players do vote, it will be the last chance for the two sides to end this process with an agreement.
If the players reject the offer, Manfred will have to mandate a shortened season, which will in turn lead to the players filing a grievance, by all accounts.
That would be a messy ending to an embarrassing couple of months for the league, and upcoming CBA negotiations would become even more tense.
It’s taken a lot of pressure -- both from the public and the players -- to get the owners to make compromises up to this point. Now it’s in the hands of the players to decide whether this deal is enough to finally start playing baseball.