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MLB players association: ‘The league’s demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected’

Players union responds to owners’ threat of a shortened season

2017 Major League Baseball World Series Game Two: Houston Astros v. Los Angeles Dodgers

The Major League Baseball Players Association continues to stand firm in their refusal to endure any further salary reductions, and in doing so seems to be calling the owners’ bluff.

A union conference call Thursday featuring the executive board and over 100 players concluded with a resolute statement.

“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,” union executive director Tony Clark said. “The league’s demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected.”

This affirms the players’ position, having already agreed back in March to a pro-rated salary based on games played. Thursday’s rejection of additional concessions puts the onus back on the owners to respond.

Players proposed a 114-game schedule, plus expanded playoffs for both 2020 and 2021, and salary deferrals in the event of a postseason cancelation. The owners, rather than make a counter offer, rejected the players proposal, and threatened to impose an extremely short season, as few as 50 games, to try to keep costs down.

“In this time of unprecedented suffering at home and abroad, players want nothing more than to get back to work and provide baseball fans with the game we all love,” Clark wrote. “But we cannot do this alone.

“Earlier this week, Major League Baseball communicated its intention to schedule a dramatically shortened 2020 season unless players negotiate salary concessions. The concessions being sought are in addition to billions in player salary reductions that have already been agreed upon.

“This threat came in response to an Association proposal aimed at charting a path forward. Among other things, 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. Rather than engage, the league replied it will shorten the season unless players agree to further salary reductions.”

Both sides are stubbornly clinging to their positions, but at this point this was likely the players’ best option. If the owners unilaterally implement a shorter, 50-ish game schedule to save money, as they believe they can do per the late March agreement, then it will be their decision to do so. The players can rightfully say they wanted to play more baseball while the owners wanted to play less.

The obvious move is for both sides to meet somewhere in the middle, maybe something close to the original 82-game schedule proposed. But that would require movement in the negotiations, and an actual counter offer from the owners.

Maybe they can figure things out, but if not both sides can bide their time by watching NBA, NHL, or MLS games, since those leagues seem to have non-toxic labor relations and a working plan to get back on the field some time soon. What a novel concept.