Athletics May Be Back at Coliseum Sooner Rather Than Later as MLB Talks Break Down

John Hickey

The Major League Baseball Players Association may be bluffing, but when they informed Major League Baseball it was time end negotiations over the start of the 2020 season, it sure didn’t sound like it.

The union said that It is done negotiating and wants an answer by Monday on how many games will be playing and when to show up for work.

The last offer from the owners essentially gave the players the option of playing a season of about 50 games at 100 percent of a previously agreed-upon prorated salary, or to play 70-some games for almost the exact same amount.

The union has said the players want to play as many games as possible; some owners have been saying that the more games they play, the more money it will cost each franchise. Cardinals’ owner Bill DeWitt said earlier in the week that baseball was no place to make a profit.

“In recent days, owners have decried the supposed unprofitability of owning a baseball team and the Commissioner has repeatedly threatened to schedule a dramatically shortened season unless players agree to hundreds of millions in further concessions,” Tony Clark, executive director of the MLBPA, said in a statement.

“Our response has been consistently that such concessions are unwarranted, would be fundamentally unfair to players, and our sport deserves the fullest 2020 season possible. These remain our positions today, particularly in light of new reports regarding MLB’s national television rights — information that we requested from the league weeks ago but were never provided.

“As a result, it unfortunately appears that further dialogue with the league would be futile. It’s time to get back to work. Tell us when and where.’’

In response, MLB put out a statement decrying the players unwillingness to negotiate in good faith.

The players don’t seem to put much credence in the owners’ cries of poverty, especially after it came out Saturday that MLB and Turner Sports have struck a new deal covering the postseason. The old deal was worth about $350 million per season. Terms of the new deal haven’t been released, but MLB is expected to collect more than $500 million per year in the new package that starts in 2022.

It hasn’t helped that the players asked owners for documentation to buttress their claims of financial weakness and the owners refused.

What all this means for the Oakland A’s and the San Francisco Giants is that they may learn in the next few days when to make the trek to the Bay Area, the A’s to the Coliseum and the Giants to Oracle Park. Details are unofficial, but the negotiators have been suggesting a Spring Training II of about three weeks and a season that would begin early- to mid-July.

Would there be spring games? It seems unlikely, although with the A’s and the Giants working just a short drive away from each other, it’s possible. Otherwise, the spring might be reduced to intra-squad games. Either way, there won’t be any fans in the seats.

Once the regular season begins, for however many games there might be, the A’s and Giants would essentially be in a combined American League/National League West. The standings would be separate, but West teams would only play West teams during the regular season. The season was supposed to start on March 26, but that was before the playing field was shaken by the arrival of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has the authority to unilaterally impose a short season. A worst-case scenario would be a season of about 50 games, and it might look like this: six games for the A’s against teams in AL West and five games against the NL West teams, which would total 49 games.

It’s possible the owners may come back with another proposal; after all, they haven’t said they’re done negotiating. But unless they do, 10 weeks of negotiations have essentially been for naught. The postseason expansion the owners wanted might be the biggest casualty of the end of negotiations, although there are still healthy and safety rules having to do with playing through the pandemic that must be agreed upon.

And the animosity that the negotiations have dredged up will likely carry over into negotiations over a new basic agreement. The current deal runs out shortly after the 2021 season ends

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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