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Baseball owners reject players' 114-game proposal, paving way for possible implementation of 50-game mini-season

Scott Lauber, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Baseball

The March 26 pact does enable commissioner Rob Manfred to draw up a schedule "using best efforts to play as many games as possible while taking into account ... the economic feasibility of various alternatives." Never mind that the union will contend that a 50-game solution doesn't represent the league's "best efforts." The league seems to be hoping that the idea of a mini-season will compel the players to accept less than they initially agreed to.

Some back-of-the-napkin math: In 2019, player salaries totaled approximately $4.58 billion. Prorated over 82 games, that comes to $2.32 billion; prorated over 50 games, it drops to roughly $1.4 billion. In the league's sliding-scale proposal, the players would average a 60% reduction from their full prorated salaries for 82 games, shrinking the total pool of money to -- you guessed it -- roughly $1.4 billion.

It seemingly will be up to the players, then, to choose between playing 82 games and accepting an additional pay cut or 50 games at 100% of their prorated salary.

It's unclear where the negotiations go from here or which side makes the next move.

One thing is certain: A breakthrough must happen within the next few days if MLB will meet its goals of resuming spring training by the middle of June and opening the season by Fourth of July weekend.

In a letter obtained Monday by The Inquirer in which Phillies full-time employees were informed of salary reductions, managing partner John Middleton wrote that he's still "hopeful that we will see baseball at Citizens Bank Park this summer," albeit without fans.

But Middleton also stated the Phillies are bracing to lose "substantially more than $100 million" this year and noted that gate-related sources -- tickets, food and merchandise concessions, parking, and sponsorships -- account for 40% of the team's revenues, a figure that is consistent with league-wide numbers stated by Manfred.

Players want a more thorough audit of the owners' books. It's unlikely they will get it, at least not within the time frame for reaching a 2020 return-to-play agreement.

 

Although the players have raised the idea of salary deferrals to assist with teams' reduced cash flow in a shortened season, economic experts concur that it's unlikely owners would agree to take on debt in future years, especially given the likelihood that the financial toll of the coronavirus will reverberate beyond 2020.

The league also rejected the players' 114-game proposal on the basis that it would have pushed the postseason into November. Amid fears of a second wave of the coronavirus, and with the bulk of the league's national TV money coming in the playoffs, MLB strongly prefers to wrap up the World Series by late October.

And while the focus of the negotiations has been on economics, there's still the matter of playing during a pandemic that has killed 108,000 people in the United States.

MLB believes its 67-page manual of protocols provides a blueprint for safely returning to the field. But with Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball League aiming to start its season this month, two players recently tested positive for COVID-19, casting further doubt on the feasibility of that plan.

(c)2020 The Philadelphia Inquirer

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