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MLB players union rejects owners offer, says negotiations are over

“It’s time to get back to work,” said Tony Clark. “Tell us when and where.”

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MLB: Negro Leagues Baseball Museum-Press Conference Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The MLB Players Association fully rejected the latest offer by the owners, and refused to negotiate further, instead daring commissioner Rob Manfred to follow through with his threat to impose a shortened 2020 season.

“It unfortunately appears that further dialogue with the league would be futile,” MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said in a statement Saturday. “It’s time to get back to work. Tell us when and where.”

Players are frustrated that the owners keep offering essentially the same thing but in repackaged forms, all of which insist the players take salary cuts beyond their pro-rated pay for a shortened season agreed to in March.

More from Clark’s statement:

Since March, the Association has made it clear that our No.1 focus is playing the fullest season possible, as soon as possible, as safely as possible. Players agreed to billions in monetary concessions as a means to that end, and in the face of repeated media leaks and misdirection we made additional proposals to inject new revenues into the industry – proposals that would benefit the owners, players, broadcast partners, and fans alike.

It’s now become apparent that these efforts have fallen upon deaf ears. 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 that 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 we requested from the league weeks ago but were never provided.

Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt’s comment from earlier this week — “The industry isn’t very profitable, to be quite honest.” — was absurd when he said it, and even more so Saturday, when reports broke of a new television deal with Turner to broadcast games from 2022-2028. That contract, reported by Andrew Marchand at the New York Post and John Ourand Eric Prisbell at Sports Business Daily, is worth roughly $470 million per year, up from the current deal that brings in $350 million per year, on average, through 2021.

It’s hard to cry poor when there are still giant revenue streams coming in.

This puts the ball in the owners’ court.

“The best thing for our sport is to reach a negotiated agreement with the MLBPA that plays as many games as possible for our fans,” Manfred said on MLB Network Wednesday. “We do have rights under the March 26 agreement, and there could come a time when we exercise those rights.”

Exercising those rights would mean the implementation of a shortened season, rumored to be 48-50 games or so. But it wouldn’t mean an expanded postseason, which would bring in extra revenue but would still need to be approved by the players.

There are still other things to be worked out, per Ken Rosenthal at The Athletic, including on-field rules, transactions and rosters. Oh, and potentially health and safety issues, maybe. Bill Shaikin at the LA Times says final agreement there hasn’t been reached, while Rosenthal says those issues are no longer open. Might just be semantics.

The MLBPA demanded a response from the owners by Monday.

The two sides have traded invective the last two days. First with deputy commissioner Dan Halem to the union, per Rosenthal and Evan Drellich at The Athletic:

In his letter, Halem takes exception to what he calls, “the Association’s rhetoric that players ‘remain opposed to any further pay cuts,’” saying the players were never entitled to be paid in the first place because Manfred had the authority to suspend all contracts once President Trump declared a national emergency on March 13.

MLBPA lawyer Bruce Meyer on Saturday responded:

If you listen closely, you can hear the pending grievances not so far in the distance.

Major League Baseball responded with a statement of its own on Saturday night:

“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 MLBPA understands that the agreement reached on March 26th was premised on the parties’ mutual understanding that the players would be paid their full salaries only if play resumed in front of fans, and that another negotiation was to take place if Clubs could not generate the billions of dollars of ticket revenue required to pay players. The MLBPA’s position that players are entitled to virtually all the revenue from a 2020 season played without fans is not fair to the thousands of other baseball employees that Clubs and our office are supporting financially during this very difficult 2020 season. 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.”

Now it’s just a matter of figuring out, as Tony Clark said, “when and where” we will see baseball next. It appears we will find out just how few baseball games the owners want to pay for.