Here's why MLB players passed on a better deal and more money


Sometime on Tuesday, after a few loose ends are tied up and final health protocols are agreed upon, Major League Baseball will officially announce a 60-game season beginning in late July.

MLB signaled its intention to impose a season on the players in a news release on Monday night, after its final proposal for an agreed settlement was roundly rejected by the players.

Players will be paid the 100 percent prorated salaries that they had been seeking throughout this almost three-month ordeal, which has played out with all the grace of a train wreck in the face of a pandemic and painful unemployment rates.

MLB's news release went out of its way to state that the players turned down a better deal, a deal that would have put more money in their pockets.

MLB noted that it was willing to pay 104 percent on the prorate.

It noted that it was willing to forgive $33 million in salary that had been advanced to the players early in the shutdown.

It added that it was willing to add the designated hitter in 2021. (There will be a DH in this shortened season. That's part of the health protocol to prevent injury.)

And, of course, MLB spelled out how it wanted to expand the playoffs with the players getting a cut of the action.

All of this — the 104 percent, the extra $$$ from an expanded playoff format, the 15 extra DH jobs in 2021, the salary forgiveness — is gone now.

And, now, we are left to wonder why.

Why no handshake deal?

The answer probably lies in both sides' stubbornness. MLB and the union have been battling for 50 years. They are the Hatfields and the McCoys, neither side willing to give in to the other, more often concerned with winning the deal than making a deal, with the exception of a few pockets of peace here and there.

This is certainly not a moment of peace and the discord we see now was brewing long before the pandemic and the shutdown. Players already weren't happy with the last Basic Agreement. They weren't happy that salaries had flattened, that teams were tanking, that too many clubs were sitting out free agency, producing cold markets that dragged into February. They weren't happy that teams were allegedly manipulating service time. All of these issues rankled the players at a time when franchise values and media fees were rising to the owners' benefit.

Just last week, word of the owners striking a billion-dollar TV deal leaked. The strategic leak made it hard to sympathize with the owners and easier to see why the players were digging in so much.  

And, so, on Monday, the players, looking more than a little petulant, dug in one more time and made MLB dictate the rules for the game's return this season. In refusing to strike an agreement with MLB, the players retained their right to go to court, to file a grievance and accuse MLB of not negotiating in good faith. That right would have gone away if the two sides had struck an agreement.

MLB has a similar right to file a grievance, but, in the long run, filing a grievance might benefit the players a lot more than it benefits the owners. Players Association lawyers have long wanted to take a peek inside the owners' financial books, but baseball is not your typical business and there's nothing that requires owners to play show and tell. Ah, but a grievance process might be just what the players need to get a look inside those books, get a look at just how much the owners are making and that would be valuable information heading into negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement. The current one expires after next season.

The players have shown great resolve these last three months. Passing on a better deal now and keeping their right to a grievance intact might just be a case of short-term pain for long-term gain.

This whole ordeal has left a bad taste in everyone's mouth and it probably won't be going away any time soon. The bad blood between these two sides is real and the players are intent on changing things in the next CBA. 

And you know what that means? Yep. We'll be hearing a lot about a potential strike at this time next year. As long as health will permit, the owners want some type of a season in 2020 because it will lead to a postseason. Postseasons are lucrative, especially for management. A strike late next season would put postseason dollars at risk. It's all part of the leverage game. 

And leverage is why the players refused to settle this current squabble with MLB.

The right to file a grievance is leverage. And the players did not want to lose it, even if it means less money in their pockets now.

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