For weeks, it seemed as if negotiations between Major League Baseball and the Players Association over the economics of a pandemic-shortened season were operating on separate tracks without regard for the issue that mattered most to the other side.
Now, it appears there might not be further negotiations at all.
MLB rejected the union's proposal for a 114-game season and full prorated pay for the players and $100 million in deferrals if the postseason is canceled, a source confirmed Thursday. The owners weren't expected to go for that, just as the players last week predictably vetoed MLB's plan for sliding-scale secondary pay cuts in an 82-game schedule.
But the sides haven't scheduled another round of talks, and MLB reportedly is ready to discuss exercising its authority to unilaterally implement a roughly 50-game season if the union doesn't relent in its refusal to redraw a March 26 accord in which the players agreed to prorated salaries based on games played, a concept (the union viewed it more as a threat) that was floated Monday night through an ESPN report.
While forcing the mini-season on the players -- assuming MLB gets clearance from medical experts and state/local government officials -- would guarantee that there's at least some baseball played this year, it might further poison an already toxic relationship between the sides a year before they will begin negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement.
There's also a chance that some players -- perhaps even a few marquee names -- would choose to sit out rather than risk their health for two months of games.
So, how did it come to this?
The players insist that terms of the March 26 agreement must be honored and therefore won't accept less than 100% of their prorated salaries. The league claims that owners will lose money for every game played without fans and with players making their full prorated salaries.
Yet the league's proposal asked players to absorb secondary cuts totaling $850 million from their prorated pay, and the players' counteroffer called for more games than the league's targeted 82-game schedule.
Hello? Does either side listen when the other speaks? Are their Zoom calls on mute? Hello?