Negotiations for the 2020 season have continued in recent weeks, but the two sides still appear to be far apart. Each side wants to make or save as much money as possible. The players don’t want to take further paycuts, and the owners want to mitigate their losses as much as possible. As June progresses and gets closer to July, the time to find a deal is running out.
However, the risk of a season not happening may not be as dire as it seems. Though reaching a deal is the preferred method towards a 2020 season, commissioner Rob Manfred has some leverage to work with. According to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the commissioner has the ability to mandate a short season should no deal be agreed upon.
Continue to believe there will be baseball. Manfred’s ability to mandate a short season would seem to almost ensure that, barring Covid spike. Manfred prefers negotiated deal w/players but has in back pocket ability to mandate season of any length, provided player pay is prorated— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) June 6, 2020
If Manfred does mandate short season — 48 games is lowest # heard — players would have to play provided conditions are safe. Players recourse? They could file grievance w/claim MLB failed to play as many games as possible and hope to open the books, and decline expanded playoffs— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) June 6, 2020
While everything is still dependent on conditions being safe enough to play, the commissioner has the authority to force a short season if necessary. Heyman reports that 48 games would be the fewest under this mandate, and the players’ salaries would be prorated based on the number of games. The players would be able to file a grievance, but he adds in a Facebook post that they wouldn’t refuse to play in this scenario.
This option would be the last resort, though. Forcing a season would further widen the gap between the players and owners as negotiations for the next CBA are ongoing. It could increase the chances of a work stoppage when the current CBA runs out. Coming together on any deal would be better overall, as both sides would have some say in a season that way. Also, as Heyman notes, a short season may not be considered legitimate by many people. Reaching a deal on a longer season would be better overall.
As other leagues are figuring out how to return to play and either finish up their seasons or figure out how a 2020 season will work, the pressure continues to grow for baseball. Losing the 2020 season would be a massive blow to the sport that will affect it for years. While they have agreed on some elements of a season, questions around length and compensation remain. A deal between both sides would be the best for everyone, but if that can’t happen, the commissioner could use his authority to make one happen.