MLB of­fers a shorter 76-game season

Times Standard (Eureka) - - FRONT PAGE - By Ron­ald Blum

Ma­jor League Base­ball made an­other try to start the coron­avirus-de­layed season in early July, propos­ing a 76-game reg­u­lar season, ex­pand­ing the play­offs from 10 teams to as many as 16 and al­low­ing play­ers to earn about 75% of their pro­rated salaries.

Play­ers have re­fused cuts be­yond what they agreed to in March shortly af­ter the pan­demic be­gan, part of base­ball’s again ac­ri­mo­nious la­bor re­la­tions. The ar­du­ous ne­go­ti­a­tions have jeop­ar­dized plans to hold open­ing day around the Fourth of July in empty ball­parks and pro­vide en­ter­tain­ment to a pub­lic still emerg­ing from months of quar­an­tine.

MLB’s lat­est pro­posal would guar­an­tee 50% of play­ers’ pro­rated salaries over the reg­u­lar season, ac­cord­ing to de­tails ob­tained by The As­so­ci­ated Press,.

The pro­posal would elim­i­nate all free-agent com­pen­sa­tion for the first time since the free-agent era started in 1976. It also would for­give 20% of the $170 mil­lion in salaries al­ready ad­vanced to play­ers dur­ing April and May.

“If the play­ers de­sire to ac­cept this pro­posal, we need to reach an agree­ment by Wed­nes­day,” Deputy Com­mis­sioner Dan Halem wrote in a let­ter to union ne­go­tia­tor Bruce Meyer that was ob­tained by The As­so­ci­ated Press. “While we un­der­stand that it is a rel­a­tively short time frame, we can­not waste any ad­di­tional days if we are to have suf­fi­cient time for play­ers to travel to spring train­ing, con­duct COVID-19 test­ing and ed­u­ca­tion, con­duct a COVID-19 test­ing and ed­u­ca­tion, con­duct a spring train­ing of an ap­pro­pri­ate length, and sched­ule a 76game season that ends no later than Sept. 27.”

“While we are pre­pared to con­tinue dis­cus­sion past Wed­nes­day on a season with fewer than 76 games, we sim­ply do not have enough days to sched­ule a season of that length un­less an agree­ment is reached in the next 48 hours,” he added.

There was no im­me­di­ate re­sponse from the union, which is likely to view the plan as a step back be­cause of the large per­cent­age of salaries not guar­an­teed.

“There’s so­cial un­rest in our coun­try amid a global pan­demic. Base­ball won’t solve these prob­lems, but maybe it could help,” Washington pitcher Sean Doolit­tle tweeted. “We’ve been stay­ing ready & we pro­posed 114 games — to pro­tect the in­tegrity of the game, to give back to our fans & cities, and be­cause we want to play.

“It’s frus­trat­ing to have a pub­lic la­bor dis­pute when there’s so much hard­ship. I hate it,” he said. “But we have an obli­ga­tion to fu­ture play­ers to do right by them. We want to play. We also have to make sure that fu­ture play­ers won’t be pay­ing for any con­ces­sions we make.”

While there is no chance play­ers would ac­cept this pro­posal as is, the of­fer dropped the slid­ing scale teams em­braced last month that would have left stars with just a frac­tion of their ex­pected pay. The lat­est pro­posal fig­ures to spark more talks that could lead to open­ing day at some point in the first half of July.

Play­ers agreed March 26 for pro­rated salaries that de­pend on games played, part of a deal for a guar­an­tee of ser­vice time if the season was scrapped.

MLB says it can’t af­ford to play in ball­parks with­out fans and on May 26 pro­posed an 82-game sched­ule. The union coun­tered with a 114-game sched­ule at pro­rated pay that would ex­tend the reg­u­lar season by a month through Oc­to­ber.

MLB is wor­ried a sec­ond wave of the virus would en­dan­ger the post­sea­son — when MLB re­ceives $787 mil­lion in broad­cast rev­enue.

Teams es­ti­mate the new of­fer plan would guar­an­tee $1.43 bil­lion in com­pen­sa­tion: $955 mil­lion in salaries, in­clud­ing an al­lowance for earned bonuses; $393 mil­lion if the post­sea­son is played for a 20% bonus for ev­ery player with a big league con­tract; $50 mil­lion for the reg­u­lar season post­sea­son pool nor­mally funded with ticket money; and $34 mil­lion for the for­given ad­vances.

Mike Trout and Ger­rit Cole, who have the high­est salaries of $36 mil­lion each, would have been guar­an­teed $5.58 mil­lion each un­der the ini­tial MLB pro­posal with the chance to earn up to about $8 mil­lion, and $25.3 mil­lion apiece in the union plan. They would be guar­an­teed $8,723,967 each un­der the of­fer and would get $12,190,633 apiece if the post­sea­son is com­pleted.

A player at the $563,500 min­i­mum could earn up to $244,492 and those at $1 mil­lion — about half those on cur­rent ac­tive ros­ters — could get up to $389,496.

MLB es­ti­mates its rev­enue would drop from $9.73 bil­lion last year to $2.75 bil­lion this year with a 76game sea­sons. Adding pro­rated shares of sign­ing bonuses, op­tion buy­out, ter­mi­na­tion pay, as­sign­ment bonuses and ben­e­fits, MLB says play­ers would get 70.2% of rev­enue, up from 46.7%. Also fac­tor­ing in sign­ing bonuses for amateurs in the draft this week and in­ter­na­tional play­ers, MLB projects play­ers would get 86.2%, up from 52.1%.

Ex­pan­sion of the play­offs would make a ma­jor change for MLB’s 30 clubs. Post­sea­son teams dou­bled to four with the split of each league into two di­vi­sions in 1969, then to eight with the re­align­ment to three di­vi­sions and the ad­di­tion of a wild card in 1995, a year later than planned due to a play­ers’ strike. The post­sea­son reached its cur­rent 10 with the ad­di­tion of a sec­ond wild card and a wild­card round in 2012.

Play­ers pro­posed ex­pand­ing the play­offs to 14 teams in both 2020 and ‘21. The MLB plan also would cover the next two sea­sons. It doesn’t spec­ify a for­mat other than as many as eight clubs per league.

Free agent com­pen­sa­tion has long caused bit­ter fights since the ar­bi­tra­tion de­ci­sion in De­cem­ber 1975 that struck down the re­serve clause — it led to an eight-day strike dur­ing spring train­ing in 1980 and a 50-day strike dur­ing the 1981 season. Com­pen­sa­tion had been nar­rowed in re­cent years but still caused some free agents to have fewer bid­ders and to sign later, such as pitch­ers Craig Kim­brel and Dal­las Keuchel in 2018.

MLB pro­posed drop­ping the loss of draft picks and in­ter­na­tional sign­ing bonus pool al­lo­ca­tion for sign­ing a qual­i­fied free agent.

“...We want to play. We also have to make sure that fu­ture play­ers won’t be pay­ing for any con­ces­sions we make.”

— Washington Na­tion­als pitcher Sean Doolit­tle

KATHY WILLENS — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS, 2019

MLB play­ers have re­fused cuts be­yond what they agreed to in March shortly af­ter the coron­avirus pan­demic be­gan, part of base­ball’s again ac­ri­mo­nious la­bor re­la­tions.

ROSS D. FRANKLIN — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS, 2017

MLB says it can’t af­ford to play in ball­parks with­out fans and on May 26 pro­posed an 82-game sched­ule.

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