Team representatives are holding a virtual meeting with MLB Players’ Union officials to propose a shortened season with radical changes to the way games are played to restart the sport in the wake of the coronavirus, according to The New York Times. The current proposal has some difficult hurdles to overcome, perhaps the biggest being how players will be paid.
Team owners are proposing to hold a truncated 82-game season. Games will be played in team stadiums without fans, unless local rules prevent teams from using their home arenas, in which case teams will be allowed to move games to their practice and spring training facilities, instead. Travel will be limited and teams will play within their geographic area.
Some rules will be changed, such as the National League’s prohibition against a designated hitter, to create a more uniform system of play since teams will largely be playing within their own divisions. Before every game, players and staff will be tested for the coronavirus, and team rosters will be expanded to 50 players with about 30 players active for each game.
If the union agrees to those changes and others, the MLB must still convince the union representatives to sign on to pay structure that they have criticized as an attempt at installing a salary cap, according to The Athletic. The players’ union has advocated against a salary cap system, such as what is used in the NFL, for years.
The proposal would link player’s salaries for the 2020 season to the amount of revenue generated this year. In March, the union agreed to cut player salaries on a prorated game-by-game basis, but says the direct tie to league revenues is effectively the salary cap system that union officials have fought against for years.
“We lose money on every single game (without fans),” one league official told The Athletic. “We have to propose that they take something less than they already negotiated. We thought the most persuasive way to make that proposal was to explain: here’s what we’re going to make in revenue and we’ll split it with you and here’s how it turns into player salaries.”
“You take everything, tell ’em this is everything we’re going to make, we’ll give you half of it,” the official said. “If we do better, we’re not going to ask you to rely on our projections. We’ll give you this as a minimum, if we make more, we’ll give you half of what the more is.”
Players’ union executive director Tony Clark slammed the proposed 2020 pay structure, accusing the MLB of “trying to take advantage of a global health crisis.”
“A system that restricts player pay based on revenues is a salary cap, period. This is not the first salary cap proposal our union has received. It probably won’t be the last,” Clark said. “None of this is beneficial to the process of finding a way for us to safely get back on the field and resume the 2020 season — which continues to be our sole focus.”