48 games? You're a commissioner just like I an a Hall of Famer! 48 games is NOT a season. It IS however a direct reflection of how little you care about the game or it's fans. You do NOT represent the game I love. You are the very embodiment of the stunted growth of our game. --Dallas Braden.
That tweet from the former Oakland A's and Yuba-Sutter Gold Sox pitcher (and re-tweeted by Angels and former Gold Sox catcher Max Stassi) was going to used as a note at the end of this column, but it really does capture in 276 characters the embodiment (to use Braden's word) of one side of the argument. Taking sides here, it also seems to be the one that makes the most sense. However, players are starting to shoot themselves in the foot just to make that point, and that's where having baseball in 2020 is getting a little more dicey.
Here's where we are. After submitting proposals and counter-proposals that neither was going to agree to, and both sides knew it, Major League Baseball and its players seem to be at an impasse. If games are to return, players want a full pro-rated salary (if there was an 81-game season, that would be half of a 162-game schedule, so players would get half their slated salary). An agreement was made on March 26, two weeks after spring training was halted because of the coronavirus pandemic, that said so.
Owners, however, say they can't afford what would add up to a couple billion dollars to pay the payers if there are no fans in the stands. The March 26 agreement does not say that specifically, but there is language that maybe could be interpreted that way. Obviously, the players aren't reading those words between the lines, and are sticking to their demand of full prorated salaries.
MLB, knowing the players wouldn't accept it, presented an 82-game offer with a percentage of a pro-rated share on a sliding scale, meaning those with the smaller salaries would be the least affected. The Players Association, in a P-R move and knowing the owners wouldn't accept, countered with a 114-game schedule, full pro-rated salaries, and games into November (which owners don't want, at first saying because they fear another coronavirus outbreak, then saying they don't want to compete with football and the presidential election). Part of the March 26 agreement says that MLB can impose a schedule of any length if no agreement is reached, but that schedule would include a full pro-rated share.
So Baseball's latest proposal was a 72-game schedule, 70 percent of a pro-rated share, and expanded playoffs, and, if the playoffs are completed (fear of another outbreak), that pro-rated share goes up to 83 percent. The MLB Players Association, seeing pro-rated salaries, quickly rejected the offer, and did not counter. Union president Tony Clark said in a statement, ...as a result, it unfortunately appears that further dialogue with the league would be futile. It's time to get back to work. Tell us when and where.
MLB owners are claiming (and you can see why), that they can't nake any money without fans in the stands, even though the games would be on TV and radio, and that money would be coming in. Claiming poverty, it seems the fewer games they play, the better, and are likely to impose a schedule of around 50 games (48 at Braden tweeted).
Here's where players are shooting themselves in the foot. If the players accepted the owners latest offer of a 72-game season at 70 percent pro-rated salary, they would make slightly more than a 100 percent pro-rated 50-game schedule (31.1 percent compared to 30.9 percent). If the post-season is completed, and that pro-rated salary is bumped to 83 percent, now you're looking at 36.9 percent of what they would have made if they got in all 162 games. So it's not * all * about money, here, but of course the players believe there is no reason they can't play 72 games at a full prorated salary, which would be 44.4 percent.
Naturally, there's a lot more involved, but those are just the basics. The current collective bargaining agreement with the owners and players expires after next year, and, as you can tell, the term 'labor peace', which the previous commissioner loved to throw around, is no longer there. ESPN's Jeff Passan called a potential lockout before the beginning of the 2022 season a fait accompli'.
Of course, no one has asked the fans what they want. A 50-game season would be a joke in terms of crowning a World Series champion (the 2019 Washington Nationals started 19-31, and went on to win the World Series. From an historical perspective, a 50-game season would be a joke, but so would 72 games. However, baseball would be back, and fans want that, too. Other, supposed 'one-time rules' meant just for this year (like a universal DH or expanded playoffs) could become permanent whether fans want them or not.
It's like party politics. If they make a deal that the other side agrees with, it shows a sign of weakness. Whatever happens, we have to make sure the other side doesn't win. If that continues, we'll have a work stoppage on our hands in no time. All we can say right now is, if the sport had its act together, players would be on practice fields right now (with some kind of social distancing, of course), and getting ready for a micro-season to begin around the Fourth of July weekend. Fans and talk show hosts would be debating what the legacy of a shortened 2020 season would mean, and if we should pro-rate a player's statistics over 162 games instead of their salaries. Instead, players and owners are whining over money abd labor issues. And, oh yeah, there is a Covid-19 pandemic going on, too. What about player safety issues? They still have to address that before there can be games. That's next, assuming the whining stops.
What in the mlb.com is going on around here?: You would figure baseball's website, mlb.com, and it's 'At-Bat' app would be the place to go to follow any progress that is being made on having a season. Right? Wrong. They did publish MLB's reaction to the rejection of the latest proposal, but have been focusing instead on MLB Draft coverage, and things like 'Each Team's Best Season By a Player Over 40'. The website and app prided themselves on being independent (this article was printed without permission of the MLB's 30 clubs), but they must have laid off all of their writers. ESPN, Yahoo!, and others are more than picking up the slack.
Take me out to the ball game: While many collegiate wood-bat summer leagues have canceled their 2020 season, there are some that are proceeding, and that includes the Yuba-Sutter Gold Sox in Marysville. The league they play in, the Golden State Collegiate Baseball League, has shut down, but the Gold Sox, reminiscent of their Horizon Air Summer Series days, are playing an independent schedule, and keeping standings with the limited number of teams they will be playing against. Their players are local rather than from all around the country, but the team had been trending that way in recent years anyway. They will play 28 games, all at home, beginning June 18, although fans will not be permitted during the first weekend.
Friday night lights?: The California Interscholastic Federation, the governing bocy for high school sports, says they should have a decision by July 20 about when and if high school football will be played this season. The CIF held three days of meetings this week, and said they discussed 'alternative calendars' if they are not ready, including one contingency which would delay fooball, and other fall sports, until January. The first games are scheduled for August 21, and while that doesn't look likely, it would figure, at least at this point, that the delay would be weeks and not months.