As time to salvage a 2020 season grows shorter, Major League Baseball and the Players' Association only seem further entrenched in their respective positions, with few signs that the impasse is lessening.
The latest salvo came Thursday night following a conference call of more than 100 players, after which MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said in a statement that the union "resoundingly rejected" further concessions sought by MLB.
"The overwhelming consensus of the Board is that Players are ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions that could affect the health and safety of not just themselves, but their families as well," Clark said in the statement. "The league’s demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected.
"Important work remains to be done in order to safely resume the season. We stand ready to complete that work and look forward to getting back on the field."
MLB Players’ Association executive director Tony Clark releases statement following conference call with more than 100 player leaders, who “resoundingly rejected” MLB’s “demand for additional concessions.” pic.twitter.com/bdT2gub2En
Clark's statement came one day after MLB rejected the players' proposal of a 114-game season with prorated pay, an offer that included the owners' desire for expanded playoffs that would enable the league to recoup losses commissioner Rob Manfred estimates will run as high as $4 billion if the season proceeds without fans in attendance.
Instead, MLB suggested on a tense Sunday evening conference call that it may implement a 50-game schedule if players insisted on receiving prorated pay. A shorter season would benefit owners who rely more heavily on gate than television revenue.
"Players proposed more games, two years of expanded playoffs, salary deferrals in the event of a 2020 playoff cancellation, and the exploration of additional jewel events and broadcast enhancements aimed at creatively bringing our Players to the fans while simultaneously increasing the value of our product," Clark said. "Rather than engage, the league replied it will shorten the season unless Players agree to further salary reductions."
MLB maintains a March agreement between the sides allows a renegotiation of the agreed-upon prorated pay should fans not be in attendance for games. It floated proposals that included an 82-game season with a 50-50 split of revenues and a sliding pay scale that would have trimmed the highest-paid players' salary by more than 75%.
The players' insistence on prorated pay — which in an 82-game schedule amounts to a 50% cut in pay with half the season wiped out due to mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic — may yet compel Manfred to attempt implementing a 50-game schedule.
The league and players hope to strike an agreement in time for a second spring training to commence next week, with a targeted Opening Day around July 3. The sides also have not finalized health and safety protocols that MLB outlined in a 67-page memo.
That window still remains. But the opening is getting quite narrow.
Follow Gabe Lacques on Twitter @GabeLacques.
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