Baseball took its first step to a restart on May 11 when owners gave the go-ahead to begin negotiating with the players’ union on a potential return around the Fourth of July.
But a 50-50 revenue sharing split was shot down by players before it was even proposed, and a tiered salary structure taking more money out of the higher-paid players’ pockets also was a non-starter.
So here we are in early June, with the NHL and NBA much closer to their restart agreements than MLB, making the fight between baseball owners and the union even more aggravating to shell-shocked fans who just want to sit back and watch a game.
The back-and-forth between the two sides has been tedious, to say the least, so we’ve decided to fast-forward through the rest of the talks and reveal how it will all play out in October.
The union responds to the owners’ proposal for a 50-game season with prorated salaries with an offer of a 154-game season that runs through November, ending with a potential Game 7 of the World Series on Dec. 31. In deference to the start of the 2020-21 NBA season, the union agrees no postseason games will be played on Christmas Day.
The owners remind the union they have already rejected a previous proposal to extend the season into November due to concerns of a second wave of the coronavirus. Their new proposal calls for a 42-game season featuring only intra-division play, a Home Run Derby on Aug. 31 and an extended 28-team postseason that includes every team except the Miami Marlins and Baltimore Orioles.
After rejecting the owners’ 42-game proposal as “unadulterated gibberish,” the union announces the owners’ original 82-game proposal is now acceptable as long as MLB agrees to prorated salaries and officially changes the name of the Commissioners Trophy to the Piece of Metal Trophy.
A controversial memo from agent Scott Boras to his clients is leaked to the Associated Press. The memo calls for players to continue standing their ground and informs them that Chicago Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts is “richer than Croesus” and is hoarding his money in a freezer inside Joe Maddon’s now-shuttered restaurant.
Ricketts later tells ESPN he has “no money whatsoever” and points to his wardrobe — a dozen light blue, cotton Oxford shirts and three pairs of tan Khakis — as evidence.
The owners unanimously reject the union’s Piece of Metal Trophy proposal, but offer to officially change some of baseball’s terminology to attract younger fans, including using the term “dingers” for “home runs.”
“Kids love saying ‘dingers,’” Commissioner Rob Manfred announced on his TikTok account. Other proposed MLB changes are “pitch framing” to “ump duping,” “utilityman” to “utilityperson” and “grand slam” to “epic dinger.” Bat tossing also will be mandatory, though players age 30 and over will be grandfathered from the rule and therefore won’t have to participate.
The union dismisses the owners’ new terminology proposal, calling it a “distraction” to avoid bargaining over prorated salaries. With the original Fourth of July re-start date quickly approaching, Manfred calls for an independent arbitrator to settle the dispute. Actor Tom Hanks agrees to sit down with both sides for 48 hours to hammer out a deal. The union accepts the idea and agrees to Hanks as the arbitrator.
One day into talks, Hanks abruptly resigns, calling both sides “bat(bleep) crazy.”
With no baseball on the horizon, the owners and union agree to discontinue negotiations for a “cooling off period” of no more than 30 days.
The two sides return to the table with new proposals. The owners ask for a 30-game season beginning Sept. 1 with expanded “all-in” playoffs consisting of a March Madness-style tournament and first-round byes going to the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and Cubs “to accommodate the wishes of our valued media partners.”
The union counters with a 60-game schedule of daily doubleheaders and a lottery with weighted ping-pong balls to seed the 30 playoff teams.
The owners agree to discuss the union’s latest proposal, but balk at a clause that mandates every player be mic’d up for every game to “create Zoom-like” entertainment for TV viewers.
The union alters its proposal to exclude Cincinnati Reds starter Trevor Bauer from the mic’d up players clause. The owners unanimously agree to the Bauer amendment. Negotiations continue.
The NFL preseason begins with the Dallas Cowboys-Pittsburgh Steelers game, moving the protracted baseball negotiations from the backburner of sports fans’ consciousness like the VHS bargain bin at their local Best Buy.
On the 26th anniversary of the players’ strike that led to the cancellation of the 1994 season, the union calls for a moment of silence. In a bipartisan gesture, America declines.
With time running out to get a season underway before the third wave of the coronavirus, the owners make a final, final “this time we mean it” proposal for a 25-game season starting Sept. 10 with an expanded, 29-team playoffs that includes every team but the Marlins.
The union rejects the owners’ final, final proposal and makes their own “final, final, final” offer — 50 games of doubleheaders and a 32-team postseason.
The owners remind the union there are only 30 teams, rejecting the 32-team postseason proposal. The union responds with a proposal for the addition of two “quickie” franchises in Las Vegas and Portland to facilitate postseason seeding. The rosters of the two teams would be made up of released minor leaguers and unsigned free agents, including Yasiel Puig.
The owners reject the union’s final, final, final proposal by a 29-1 vote, with the Marlins abstaining. Manfred declares the 2020 season cancelled.
After 10 days of secret talks between MLB and the union, an agreement is reached.
Under the terms of that deal, the Yankees and Red Sox will play a 14-game home-and-home regular season beginning Sept. 15 to decide homefield advantage in the World Series, receiving their prorated salaries. The Yankees and Red Sox will then play a 9-game World Series for the Piece of Metal Trophy, with the players receiving 60% of all postseason revenues.
Game 9 of the World Series is moved to a 1 p.m. start (Eastern Time) to avoid going head-to-head with the ending of the late afternoon telecast of the Tom Brady-Aaron Rodgers showdown in Tampa Bay.
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