What I’m Hearing: Our MLB Insider Bob Nightengale details how Rob Manfred could implement the unilateral decision to start a 48-game season if a deal isn’t reach soon. Nightengale believes that doomsday scenario could finally lead to a deal.


The Major League Baseball Players Association informed MLB on Saturday night that they are done negotiating and want an answer by Monday on how many games they’ll play and when to show up for work.

“It’s now become apparent that these efforts have fallen upon dead ears,’’ Tony Clark, executive director of the MLBPA, said in a statement. “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. 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 other words, the union now is simply waiting for Commissioner Rob Manfred to unilaterally impose a short season, perhaps as few as 50 games, which would require the players to be paid at a prorated basis.

“We have been consistent and upfront about everything from the beginning,’’ said Andrew Miller, a member of the union’s executive committee. “We want to play and have made that abundantly clear. It’s clear the negotiations were not being productive and it was time to put the ball into the hands of MLB to let us know when we should come to work.”

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Just like that, unless MLB comes back with a proposal that would pay the players full-prorated salaries without fans in the stands, 10 weeks of negotiations are over.

No expanded postseason.

No broadcast enhancements.

No cooperation.

And perhaps plenty of players who may simply decide to sit out the season and rejoin their teams for spring training next season.

“Ugly,’’ one MLB owner said. “And it’s going to get worse.’’

Official statement of rejection from union chief Tony Clark

— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) June 13, 2020

In the letter lead attorney Bruce Meyer sent to deputy commissioner Dan Halem, he reiterated that the players will not take any pay cut from their prorated salaries, particularly in light of a news report that MLB has agreed to a lucrative contract extension with Turner Sports. The deal has yet to be finalized and will not be in effect until 2022, two high-ranking officials with direct knowledge of the negotiations said, and will have no impact on this year’s economic losses.

“We have made clear numerous times that players are not willing to accept less than their full prorated salaries for playing games,’’ Meyer said in a letter obtained by USA TODAY Sports. “Your recitation of the March Agreement and negotiations leading up to it is both inaccurate and largely irrelevant. …

“Your failure to produce numerous categories of documents that would allow us to validate your claims provided further confirmation of our position. For example, we still have never received unredacted RSN and national TV contracts or sponsorship agreements, the details of ongoing discussions with TV networks and sponsors, or projections of the value of any expanded playoffs. …

“As far as how you have conducted negotiations and without getting into all of your underhanded tactics to circumvent the union, your approach has been one delay tactic after another: You wasted most of April and May on lobbying politicians regarding player concessions and leaking a so-called revenue sharing proposal to the media. …Your response has been wholly inadequate, and the league has continued to obstruct the Association’s efforts to obtain even a modicum of financial transparency from the league and its clubs.’’

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The union also believes that baseball should be played into November, despite MLB’s insistence that doctors and medical experts have warned them of a second wave of the virus, which potentially would cancel the postseason, and a loss of about $900 million.

“Your refusal to play games in October is purportedly based primarily on concern for player health,’’ the letter continues. “We believe this is a pretext. We note that we requested information at our May 31 meeting on any basis for not playing games in October. You agreed to provide such information but we have yet to receive it. Other leagues are planning on playing in October and November, and we have proposed having the flexibility to play games at neutral sites if necessary to address any safety concerns. We believe your position is part and parcel of your general bad faith determination to play as few games as possible to punish players for refusing to capitulate to MLB’s demands for massive pay cuts.

“Players remain united in their stance that a day’s work is worth a day’s pay, particularly in a situation where players and their families are being asked to take on additional burdens and risks. Given your continued insistence on hundreds of millions of dollars of additional pay reductions, we assume these negotiations are at an end. If it is your intention to unilaterally impose a season, we again request that you inform us and our members of how many games you intend to play and when and where players should report. It is unfair to leave players and the fans hanging at this point, and further delay risks compromising health and safety.

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“We demand that you inform us of your plans by close of business on Monday, June 15.’’

Major League Baseball responded Saturday night with a statement that read in part, “We are disappointed that the MLBPA has chosen not to negotiate in good faith over resumption of play after MLB has made three successive proposals that would provide players, Clubs and our fans with an amicable resolution to a very difficult situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. … 

“‘We will evaluate the Union’s refusal to adhere to the terms of the March Agreement, and after consulting with ownership, determine the best course to bring baseball back to our fans.”

Major League Baseball Statement

— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) June 14, 2020

It’s possible that MLB could submit a counter-proposal, after their last proposal guaranteeing 70% pay during a 76-game regular season and 80% if there’s a postseason, but why bother?

MLB could turn around and propose a shortened season between 60 and 70 games with full pro-rated pay, guaranteeing a 16-team postseason, but it’s unlikely.

Simply, it’s clear these two sides have reached an impasse.

It’s now in Manfred’s hands.

There will be a season, perhaps starting as early as July 14, but the joy of a 2020 season has vanished in a sea of emails and zoom calls during these tumultuous negotiations.

Play ball, like it or not.

Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale.


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