NEW YORK — The players’ association was told by Major League Baseball on Friday that teams will not agree to more than 60 games in the pandemic-delayed season, leaving open the possibility of an even shorter schedule of perhaps 50 games or fewer.
While the NBA and NHL have found ways to restart their sports, baseball has been unable to cope with the economic dislocation because of the new coronavirus and the prospect of playing in empty ballparks, reverting to the fractious labour strife that led to eight work stoppages from 1972-95. With time slipping away, the sport will have at best its shortest schedule since the dawn of professional baseball in the 1870s.
The sides are increasingly dismayed with each other and appear headed to a spring training lockout in 2022. Still, they agree on one novelty: MLB’s latest proposal this week include starting extra innings with a runner on second base, and the union’s counter-proposal said that would be acceptable for 2020 only, in the event of an agreement.
That aspect, first reported by USA Today, was confirmed to The Associated Press by a person familiar with the negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity because no announcements were made.
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred flew to Arizona and met with union head Tony Clark for five hours on Tuesday in an effort to end the fighting and strike a deal. Manfred said the next day the sides had reached a framework for a 60-game regular season schedule and the full prorated pay that players had demanded, and the post-season would expand from 10 teams to 16 this year and either 14 or 16 in 2021. Like the extra-innings experiment, the larger post-season would occur only in the event of an agreement.
But Clark refused to call it a framework and said his eight-player executive subcommittee rejected it. The union countered with a 70-game schedule as part of a proposal that left the sides about $275 million apart.
“MLB has informed the association that it will not respond to our last proposal and will not play more than 60 games,” the union said in a statement on Friday night. “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.”
Players originally were set to earn about $4 billion in salaries this year. That would be cut to $1.73 billion for a 70-game schedule, $1.48 billion for 60 games and $1.23 billion for 50 games — roughly matching the total in MLB’s initial proposal for an 82-game schedule with a sliding salary scale.
In addition, MLB has offered a $25 million post-season players’ pool. even if there is a lack of fans. The union has proposed $50 million. Normally, the pool is funded from post-season ticket sales.
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Ronald Blum, The Associated Press