Baseball Struggles to Agree on Return After Quarantine

On Wednesday, June 3, Major League Baseball failed to come to an agreement with its players’ union. The 2020 season, which would normally be well under way by now, has yet to begin due to the Coronavirus pandemic. But now that most states have significantly rolled back their restrictions on public gathering and events, the only thing keeping the MLB season from beginning is consensus between the owners and the players.

Source: Neilson Marketing Services | Published on June 8, 2020

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Back and Forth

The most recent proposal from the players’ union consisted of a 114-game season, with salaries prorated at their full amounts. The league rejected this offer. Previously, the league had proposed an 82-game season with a pay scale that was adjusted as the season went on. The concern now is that MLB is planning to unilaterally impose a 50-game season with prorated pay, which would result in approximately a third of players’ salaries being paid. The March agreement between the league and the union to delay the season gives the commissioner this authority.

Minor League Cuts

In the meantime, teams are being forced to take drastic measures under the loss of revenue. Hundreds of minor league players have been cut, with more expected to be released soon. Baseball’s unique farm systems are carefully cultivated by managers and scouts, but with no revenue coming in, they have become a luxury few can afford.

Even the 2020 MLB draft was reduced from forty rounds to five. Some teams have tried to hold on to a skeletal crew with pay averaging $400 per week. Regardless of whether the MLB season happens in 2020, it is unlikely that there will be typical minor league baseball. If there is, it will most likely be a place for injured players to recuperate rather than a competitive or developmental league.

Health & Safety

But as baseball moves forward with finances on the brain, teams cannot forget the current pandemic. Although the curve has been flattened and the surge seems to have slowed, the crisis is not yet over. This week, two Japanese baseball players tested positive for the disease, with the rest of the team and crew at risk.

This has put owners and players on edge, and is influencing the negotiations at this time. Even if the season begins, it remains to be seen how full those enormous ball parks fill up. One fact is still certain. Major League Baseball continues to need insurance coverage: risk/care, general liability, or loss of value.

Owners Still Optimistic

However, owners are still confident that there will be a 2020 baseball season. Milwaukee Brewers owner David Stearns in particular has expressed his optimism publicly. Negotiations between the union and the owners are nothing new, and they always manage to come to an agreement.

Some owners and fans are worried that the season will happen, but will be so short as to be non-representative for statistics and titles. Others are concerned that players may not want to risk their health for a short, uncertain season. But both sides want to play ball, so it seems likely that it will happen this year, one way or another.