The players have made concessions on several fronts. They readily accepted the idea of an universal designated hitter. That was easy. They suggested expanding the playoffs this year and next despite several players being worried that will water down the product. They came back from 114 games to 89 games.
What has not moved an inch, a penny, a percentage point since late March is the amount of their previously negotiated, prorated salaries they find acceptable. It's 100 percent or bust.
Which is going to force commissioner Rob Manfred into as space to believe this is the case. Accordingly, he will reduce the season, and its length could have repercussions ranging from prompting certain players to sit out to wondering what the point of playing 60 games is.
Manfred made two media stops Wednesday ahead of the first day of the MLB draft. First on MLB Network he guaranteed a season. He followed up on ESPN with the same assurance.
"We're going to play baseball in 2020, 100 percent," Manfred said. "If it has to be under the March 26 agreement, if we get to that point in the calendar, so be it. But one way or the other, we're playing Major League Baseball."
Manfred then circled back to the players' stance on salary when talking about the pending counter from the league, which could come Friday.
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"We're hoping it's a proposal that will illicit reciprocal movement from the players' side, that they'll get off the hundred percent salary demand and recognize that 89 games in this point in the calendar and in the pandemic is just not realistic," Manfred said.
There's coded speech in there from Manfred. First, the game amount is not palatable to him -- or the owners he represents -- because more games without fans equals more loss for them. More games also equals more money for the players.
The salary demand is 100 percent of a pay cut. Not 100 percent of their normal base salaries. Presenting it as a "100 percent salary demand" is a semantics dance. Regardless, who doesn't expect 100 percent of their negotiated salary?
The players gave in the space they feel they are most restricted. Their thought lines about salary didn't occur since the season shut down. They were created over years of fighting for free agency, their seeming "loss" in the 2016 collective bargaining agreement, and the leverage owners have used in free agency since then.
"They're trying to do everything they can to affect free agency, which has been our golden egg for so long," Scherzer said of owners then. "And, for us as players, the way the CBA things were negotiated when the owners asked for essentially price controls in the draft so that they wouldn't be spending money on players in the draft so they would have more dollars to be able to spend on major league payroll, that hasn't come to fruition the way MLB portrayed it."
This was almost two years ago from a central figure in the current negotiations. It trickles into these negotiations because the players have felt their salaries -- and overall slice of the pie -- were being beaten down. They gave a bit in March to create a deal during a pandemic. They are not going to give again, and the reverberations of that decision will be felt in this most-tenuous of seasons.
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