Report: Owners Holding Conference Call to Discuss Whether to Reopen Talks with Players on Restarting Season

When Major League Baseball’s owners rejected a proposal from the players that included full prorated salaries over 114 games, they said there’d be no counter. But as we now find ourselves at the precipice of the point of no return for a July 4 Opening Day, the owners may be having second thoughts.

That small beacon of hope comes via Charles Gasparino of Fox Business, who tweeted Sunday that the owners are holding a conference call Monday to discuss “whether to restart negotiations for a 2020 baseball season.” Of course, it’s still possible they’ll choose to stand firm and opt to let Rob Manfred mandate a 50-game season.

That feels like a big miss on two different levels, since it would further undermine the season’s legitimacy while doing nothing to improve the game’s contentious labor relationship. At the same time, the players are clearly itching to return to the field and almost certainly view even a severely truncated season as better than no season at all.

In fact, Jon Heyman tweeted early Monday morning that “many if not most players” would prefer an uber-short season at full prorated pay to a longer campaign on the silly sliding scale owners proposed. Rather than simply taking that at face value, though, let’s unpack it a little bit and look at some possible motivations behind such a report.

When you take into consideration Heyman’s statement that owners are willing to compromise while players are the ones stuck in their way of thinking, this tweet feels like a big water pail. Hell, it’s more like a fire hydrant. Whether it’s intentional on Heyman’s part or not, a report like this makes it seem as though the 50-game deal is something both sides would be happy with.

The other issue at hand here is that it’s presenting a choice between two options put forth by the owners, neither of which represents a compromise. The sliding scale was understandably rejected out of hand and the 50-game season would almost certainly be the result of a league mandate rather than further discussions. So if presented with two bad deals, it’s easy to believe most people would take the one that’s slightly better.

Finally, we should acknowledge that owners had damn well better be willing to compromise further given the shifting reality of the situation. Remember, this whole issue with player salaries came because owners have been trying to leverage the idea that revenues will crater without fans in the stands. Setting aside the idea that it was pretty obvious in late March that games would resume in empty ballparks, if at all, MLB is going to allow cities to determine for themselves whether and how many fans to allow.

Whether the owners actually planned for this initially or not, I can’t help but wonder if they’re trying to pressure players into taking a deal based on no fans only to reap the additional rewards once fans are inevitably allowed back. The state of Texas is going to allow stadiums to operate at 50% capacity and we could see other varying levels of attendance elsewhere by the time the season resumes.

There is one other possibility here, which I’m going to throw out in order to give at least some owners the benefit of the doubt. It’s possible that a few of them do in fact see the bigger picture and are actually concerned with the long-term health of the sport over the more immediate mitigation of losses this season. Perhaps they’ve been reading sites like this and have realized that the wool hasn’t been pulled over everyone’s eyes, particularly when added revenue from fans and expanded playoffs are factored in.

Maybe that’s why some of them are willing to compromise, since pulling a bait and switch with financial projections would be exactly the kind of dick move that results in an even more protracted and acrimonious CBA negotiation after next season. Then again, it could very well be that whomever told Heyman the owners were more open to additional talks did so to make them look more like the good guys. I’ll let you decide what’s most likely there.

Either way, I remain optimistic that there’ll be a season of some sort because the mechanisms exist to make it happen even if not everyone is happy about how it all comes together. And now that we’re more than a week into June with no real resolution, it feels like something on the shorter end will be implemented out of necessity as much as anything.

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