The Major League Baseball Players Association on Monday night rejected a proposal from the owners to delay the start of the season by a month and reduce the schedule to 154 games from the standard 162. Almost immediately, MLB responded by saying the season will start on time, despite having to deal with the current level of COVID across the U.S.
“In light of the MLBPA’s rejection of our proposal, and their refusal to counter our revised offer this afternoon, we are moving forward and instructing our clubs to report for an on-time start to spring training and the championship season, subject to reaching an agreement on health and safety protocols,” MLB said in a statement.
The union for the players said it had reviewed the proposal over the weekend and throughout the day Monday, finding it lacking in several areas, including the loss of service time and protections against “further delays interruptions or cancelation of the season.”
The owners proposed paying players in full for the season in exchange for an expanded playoffs and the use of a designated hitter in both leagues- proposals which MLB said “were overwhelmingly popular with our fans.”
In rejecting the offer and failing to counter, the union said in a statement the players will “instead continue preparations for an on-time start to the 2021 season, and will accept MLB’s commitment to again direct the clubs to prepare for an on-time start.”
Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to camps in Arizona and Florida in 15 days, with exhibition games slated to start in both states on Feb. 27. The regular season is expected to open on April 1, most likely without fans in the stands in most big-league stadiums.
The union’s stance has been all along that the players have a contract to play this season under the terms of the current five-year Basic Agreement, now in its final year, and they expect to paid for a full 162-game season.
MLB countered by saying: “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 currently have under the Basic Agreement or Uniform Players’ Contract for pay and service time. ”
Last year, when commissioner Rob Manfred paused the sport on March 12 and a national emergency was declared the next day, MLB cited a clause in the Unified Players’ Contract that allowed the terms to be changed in the event a season might not be played.
MLB agreed to pay the players on a prorated basis and, after a rancorous six weeks of on and off negotiations over player salaries and health and safety issues, Manfred ultimately implemented a 60-game season, costing the players 63% of their total salaries.
The players have said, and MLB has apparently agreed, that the same clause can’t be used again, considering the fact that a season was played and that another is on the schedule.
Under the rejected proposal, “all 30 teams would have been required to play several doubleheaders,” the union said. “The players would also be required to accept previously rejected proposals that link expanded playoffs with expansion of the designated hitter.”
The union also stipulated that it was the first time all offseason MLB had made a formal proposal “to delay spring training and opening day by approximately a month.”
“A delay of the season would allow for the level of COVID-19 infection rates to decrease and additional time for the distribution of vaccinations, as well as minimizing potential disruptions to the 2021 season that currently face all sports,” MLB responded.