All signs point to 48-50-game MLB season as negotiations disintegrate

Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Editor’s note: This story first appeared on

It’s all in Rob Manfred’s hands now. 

A dizzying Saturday night and early Sunday morning looks to have brought an ugly end to negotiations between Major League Baseball and the players’ union.

The players alerted MLB on Saturday night that they are done negotiating about financial parameters about the game’s return amidst the coronavirus pandemic and want commissioner Manfred to decide on a season length and when spring training will start by Monday.

“It’s now become apparent that these efforts have fallen upon dead ears,’’ MLBPA executive director, Tony Clark, said in a statement. “In recent days, owners have decried the supposed unprofitability of owning a baseball team and the Commissioner has repeatedly threatened to schedule a dramatically shortened season unless players agree to hundreds of millions in further concessions.”

“Our response has been consistent that such concessions are unwarranted, would be fundamentally unfair to players, and our sport deserves the fullest 2020 season possible. These remain our positions today, particularly in light of new reports regarding MLB’s national television rights — information that we requested from the league weeks ago but were never provided. As a result, it, unfortunately, appears that further dialogue with the league would be futile. It’s time to get back to work. Tell us when and where.’’

Initially, MLB was expected to come forth with another counter-proposal in an attempt to salvage the month of ineffective negotiations. On Friday, they proposed a 72-game season with players receiving 70% prorated salaries. That number would jump to 83% if an expanded postseason that featured 16 teams rather than 10 was completed.

“We are disappointed that the MLBPA has chosen not to negotiate in good faith over resumption of play after MLB has made three successive proposals that would provide players, clubs, and our fans with an amicable resolution to a very difficult situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the league said later on Saturday night. “We will evaluate the union’s refusal to adhere to the terms of the March Agreement, and after consulting with ownership determine the best course to bring baseball back to our fans.”

Early Sunday morning, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale first reported that the league would not table another proposal, confirming that it will be up to the commissioner to get baseball back. 

Manfred possesses the autonomous power to set up the 2020 season now that negotiations have seemingly failed. 

Multiple reports have hinted that it would be a shorter season — in the neighborhood of 48 games — and give players their full prorated salaries.

The deal would, unsurprisingly, favor the league and team owners. Fewer games mean the financial hit of teams losing an average of $640,000 per game in empty stadiums is cushioned while any form of the postseason would be guaranteed — ensuring a massive payday from TV outlets to broadcast the playoffs.

This after MLB reportedly agreed to a billion-dollar deal with Turner Sports to broadcast playoff games. 

Meanwhile, the players still are docked with a sizable pay cut based on the length of the season.

There would be lasting ramifications, as the union might not agree to the expanded playoffs and could possibly file a grievance, per ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez. It will only create a tenser atmosphere next year when the two parties have to work out a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). 

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