Major League Baseball suffered a series of blows on Friday, mostly of its own doing.
First, on the labor front, with league owners opting not to respond to the players’ latest offer of a 70-game season.
“MLB has informed the Association that it will not respond to our last proposal and will not play more than 60 games,” MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said in a statement Friday. “Our Executive Board will convene in the near future to determine next steps. Importantly, Players remain committed to getting back to work as soon as possible.”
The owners are sticking to their guns on their 60-game offer, but by not countering it sets a stage for the commissioner to implement the schedule at his discretion. Doing so would not include any of the items both sides seemed to agree to in their recent proposals, including expanded revenue from the postseason increasing from 10 to 16 teams. And would almost certainly result in the players filing a grievance over the weeks of bad-faith negotiating and stalling by the owners, in order to get the short season the owners wanted all along.
The players could opt to accept the owners’ 60-game proposal from earlier in the week, but that would mean no grievance.
The two sides were somewhere in the neighborhood of $300 million apart, or roughly $1 million per team for each extra game added on to the 60, if they could have compromised.
But that would require a sport with faithful actors. It would require a healthy relationship between owners and players, one that will likely only get worse as next December’s CBA expiration approaches.
But that’s not all.
On Friday alone, news broke of positive coronavirus tests at several spring training facilities, most of which had been open on a limited basis. The Phillies confirmed positive tests for five players and three staff members in Clearwater, Fla., and are waiting on test results for 32 more, including 20 major and minor league players. The team shut down the facility.
“In terms of the implications of this outbreak on the Phillies’ 2020 season, the club declines comment, believing that it is too early to know,” the team said in a statement.
The Blue Jays and Giants also closed their facilities Friday with people showing symptoms of the virus.
#BlueJays statement on shutdown of club's facility in Dunedin, as first reported by @JeffPassan: pic.twitter.com/9NSiECNyC2— Shi Davidi (@ShiDavidi) June 19, 2020
Some news: The Giants closed their Scottsdale Stadium facility today “after one person who had been in the facility and one family member exhibited mild symptoms and were tested,” says Farhan Zaidi. The club is awaiting results.— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) June 19, 2020
The Astros said a single player at their complex in West Palm Beach tested positive earlier in the week, experiencing minor symptoms, and “is recovering well.” Though they didn’t shut down their complex.
Joel Sherman at the New York Post says MLB is contemplating shutting all 30 spring facilities down to clean. Later Friday night, MLB did just that, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today, requiring a coronavirus test before reentry.
This was a reminder that Major League Baseball still doesn’t have its health and safety protocols finalized for operating during a pandemic. That would seem like something the players and owners can agree on. But then again, I wouldn’t bet on it.