Players Union Rejects MLB’s 154-Game Season Proposal

The 2020 Major League Baseball season started on July 23, a day during which there have been simply over 70,000 new coronavirus instances reported within the United States. On Friday, when M.L.B. offered a proposal to the gamers’ union to push again the beginning of the 2021 season by roughly a month — and shave eight video games off every staff’s schedule — greater than 165,000 new instances had been reported.

Now, amid deep uncertainty about how and when the pandemic is likely to be contained, the league and gamers are engaged on plans for the 2021 season — one which with out modification would start on April 1 with a full 162-game schedule and regular journey plans.

On Monday, after having thought of the league’s proposal for a 154-game season, the gamers’ union issued a press release saying that it might not settle for the proposal and would “instead continue preparations for an on-time start to the 2021 season.”

There are severe considerations about organizing the following season. Staging final 12 months’s shortened, 60-game common season proved daunting: It included two early virus outbreaks that threatened to derail the plan, a tightening of the well being and security protocols and the creation of bubblelike situations that allowed the postseason to go off and not using a hitch — until the final day.

That skepticism led to Monday’s decision to reject the proposal.

The wheels for the season, though, were already in motion. Spring training is expected to start in two weeks. Pitchers have begun ramping up for the season. Some players are already at their spring training sites in Arizona and Florida, and clubs have been told by M.L.B. to proceed as originally scheduled, although several final details — like health and safety protocols — haven’t been finalized.

“That’s certainly created a little bit more of a challenge than you would normally have,” Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said on a video conference Friday. “Obviously the number of players, what protocols are or not going to be in place, how does that affect things, getting guys into camp and what are the quarantine rules — those are all things that we’re working through and being finalized. But I also feel like we’re very much in a position to be ready to roll right now. As late as yesterday, we’re told we’re on time still.”

That still appears to be the case after the players’ union statement. M.L.B. cannot unilaterally decide to delay spring training or the season, hence the need to negotiate with players.

Owners would also like to open games to fans, whose spending at stadiums, according to the league, makes up nearly 40 percent of its revenue.

M.L.B. players, for their part, believe staging a season during a pandemic is possible, especially after going nearly two months late last season without a known case. The N.F.L.’s ability to complete every scheduled game this season — albeit with some complications due to positive tests — is a sign that operations do not have to halt even amid outbreaks, as is the progression of the N.B.A. season despite the need to postpone numerous games for precautionary reasons.

M.L.B.’s proposal had called for players to receive their full 162-game pay if they played all 154 games, said people familiar with the negotiations who weren’t authorized to speak publicly because no announcements had been made.

The offer also codified Manfred’s rights to cancel or suspend games based on certain conditions, like government or travel restrictions, or if he, after consulting with medical experts and the union, believed that staging games would pose an “unreasonable” health and safety risk.

Players indicated concern that this could have led to fewer than 154 games, and that a compressed schedule with fewer days off could complicate making up contests postponed because of virus cases. But last year, even with similar powers given to him by a March agreement between the sides, Manfred didn’t suspend the season, despite outbreaks on the St. Louis Cardinals and the Miami Marlins. All but two teams — Detroit and St. Louis — played 60 games, using seven-inning doubleheaders to squeeze in some of them. The new practice was generally well received.

The union, which had already rejected expanding the playoffs, believed it deserved more than the playoff money pool that M.L.B. offered on Friday. It also feared that allowing more teams into the postseason would cheapen the regular season, de-emphasizing winning. Rosters, though, are mostly set, and the majority of top free-agent players have already signed with teams.

Last year, M.L.B. pushed to have the lucrative postseason wrapped up by the end of October to avoid another wave of coronavirus infections and a cluttered television sports schedule in November. Pushing back the 2021 playoffs, even a week into early November, would need approval from the networks that pay M.L.B. for the right to broadcast its games.

A deal could still be reached. Even though team owners and players never reached agreement on a schedule for the 2020 season, they agreed on opening day to a 16-team expanded postseason, which allowed them to tap into more broadcast revenue. In order to do that again, though, the sides would need to find increasingly fleeting common ground.

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