Major League Baseball’s 2020 season, it turns out, could hinge on just how many owners would rather play baseball than skip the season entirely.
At least six owners, according to SNY’s Andy Martino, would rather just cancel baseball in 2020 than play. While The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich quoted an agent who said there are at least eight owners that would prefer not to play. And the difference in that number could be key.
As backward as it seems: Baseball team owners not wanting a baseball season could actually sink MLB in 2020.
The reason? The league’s last-ditch effort to restart baseball if it can’t come to an agreement with players would be to mandate a season. A March agreement between MLB and the players’ union gives commissioner Rob Manfred power to impose a season of any length of his choosing so long as players are paid prorated salaries equal to the number of games played.
In order to do that, however, Manfred needs 75 percent of owners to approve the plan.
What’s 75 percent of 30? That would be 22.5 — so there’s a big difference between six owners not wanting a season and eight owners not wanting a season.
The issue dividing players and owners remains salaries. The March agreement calls for players to get paid prorated salaries, but owners have asked again and again for additional pay cuts, citing a lack of revenue from fans most likely not being in the stands. Players have been steadfast in their refusal of any offer that doesn’t include prorated salaries. If all else fails, Manfred and the owners could offer prorated salaries at a number of games that’s comfortable to the bottom line — which would get us a season that’s potentially fewer than 50 games. Players threw up their hands over the weekend, saying owners are operating in bad faith and have now adopted “Tell us when and where” as a mantra.
The latest stumbling block in this saga came Monday when Manfred backed off his previously guarantee of a 2020 season and said he’s now not 100 percent certain. The underlying issue now, a source confirmed to Yahoo Sports, is that owners are concerned that players would file a grievance against the owners saying they did not in good faith pursue the greatest number of games. One of the league’s demands is that the players’ union waives its right to a grievance.
It’s the threat of a grievance — and a potential billion-dollar price tag if they’re found to have been operating in bad faith — that owners fear the most.
The fate of a 2020 season may depend on how many owners’ fear of a grievance is stronger than their desire to see baseball on the field.
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