MLB owners voted unanimously to proceed with the 2020 season under the terms of their March 26 agreement with the MLB Players Association, the league said in a statement Monday night, after the union’s executive board voted down MLB’s latest offer of a 60-game season with expanded playoffs.
The owners’ vote now gives commissioner Rob Manfred the power to implement a schedule of his choosing — likely between 50 and 60 games.
In its statement, the league asked that the Players Association provide two pieces of information by 5 p.m. ET Tuesday, the first being whether players will be able to report to training in their respective cities by July 1. The second is whether the union will agree on the operating manual of health and safety protocols. The schedule would be the shortest since the National League’s third season.
The MLBPA executive board, made up of 30 player representatives and an eight-member subcommittee, earlier Monday voted 33-5 against the league’s 60-game framework, which germinated from a meeting last week between Manfred and union executive director Tony Clark. After MLB rejected a 70-game proposal from the MLBPA, the league told the union that a negotiated agreement would follow the 60-game framework, which included expanding the playoffs from 10 teams to 16, and a universal designated hitter.
Rather than accept the framework, the players shot it down and said in a statement that they expect Manfred to abide by their March 26 agreement, which allows the commissioner to set a schedule and guarantees the players fully prorated pay.
“Needless to say, we are disappointed by this development,” MLB said in a statement. “The framework provided an opportunity for MLB and its players to work together to confront the difficulties and challenges presented by the pandemic. It gave our fans the chance to see an exciting new postseason format. And, it offered players significant benefits.”
The union said in a statement that the “board reaffirmed the players’ eagerness to return to work as soon and as safely as possible.”
“To that end we anticipate finalizing a comprehensive set of health and safety protocols with Major League Baseball in the coming days, and we await word from the league on the resumption of spring training camps and a proposed 2020 schedule,” the union said.
“We are ready to get back on the field,” St. Louis Cardinals reliever Andrew Miller, a member of the MLBPA executive board subcommittee, told ESPN’s Jesse Rogers.
By rejecting the proposal, the players retain their right to grieve the terms of the late March agreement between the two sides. After spring training was shut down in March because of the coronavirus pandemic, the league and the players agreed that when play picked up, players would be paid on a prorated basis and would discuss the economic feasibility of playing without fans in the stands. The players’ association has maintained that discussion had nothing to do with their pay. That disagreement has led to weeks of acrimony between the sides.
“It’s absolute death for this industry to keep acting as it has been. Both sides,” Cincinnati Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer tweeted in a rare instance of a player criticizing the union. “We’re driving the bus straight off a cliff. How is this good for anyone involved? Covid 19 already presented a lose lose lose situation and we’ve somehow found a way to make it worse. Incredible.”
It’s absolute death for this industry to keep acting as it has been. Both sides. We’re driving the bus straight off a cliff. How is this good for anyone involved? Covid 19 already presented a lose lose lose situation and we’ve somehow found a way to make it worse. Incredible. 🤦🏻♂️
— Trevor Bauer (@BauerOutage) June 22, 2020
The union’s executive board met Saturday and elected to delay its vote on the league’s latest proposal in order to collect new data regarding testing for COVID-19 after several recent outbreaks at training facilities in Florida and Arizona and in major league cities, sources told ESPN. All MLB training camps were temporarily closed after multiple teams reported positive tests on Friday, and the league announced Saturday that a restart of training would occur only in teams’ home cities. The players then delayed the vote again Sunday, sources said, after Manfred made late tweaks to the proposal, offering in an email to Clark to cancel expanded playoffs and the universal designated hitter for 2021 if a full season isn’t played in 2020.