The latest reports suggest MLB is considering a shorter season if it is unable to reach a deal with the players, which might not suit the Houston Astros.
As Houston Astros fans wait and hope for a 2020 season, proposals between MLB and the Players Union are coming as the window to reach a deal is closing, but the sides are still a good ways apart. The latest news is from ESPN’s Jeff Passan, who reports the league is considering implementing a season of roughly 50 games if it cannot come to an agreement with the players.
In essence, this 50-game season idea is considered by the league as a last resort, as the March agreement between the league and players gave Commissioner Rob Manfred the authority to implement a season after good faith negotiations with the union. In this scenario, players would get their full prorated salaries, which has been one of the key issues dividing the league and the union. But that doesn’t mean the players are going to like it.
The league’s last proposal called for an 82-game season, but also called for players to receive pay cuts on top of their prorated salaries. Those making the highest salaries would be affected the most. In response, the players requested a 114-game season with players getting the full prorated salaries, but with the possibility of deferring some of it if the postseason were to be canceled.
No word yet on what the next formal proposal to come from the league will look like, but it seems like we know where the two sides stand. The players want a longer season since more games means more money for them, and of course they want their full prorated salaries. The league probably won’t get anywhere with its talks of pay cuts, regardless of how reasonable they may be.
The teams believe they will lose money by playing games in empty stadiums while paying players’ full salaries, so the league will want a shorter season. Both sides seem to agree on an expanded postseason, which the league will need to beef up revenues. So there is common ground, but it’ll take a few more volleys back and forth to get to a deal.
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In the end, I think the league will have to agree to pay players’ full prorated salaries without deferrals. In exchange, the players will agree to a shorter season than the 114 games they’re initially requesting. I would expect a final deal to consist of players getting their full salaries over a regular season consisting of somewhere between 70 and 90 games.
Most Astros fans will, understandably, want more than a 50-game season. In terms of what’s most conducive to the team’s success, the team might want to have as long a season as possible. This team has plenty of depth (except, perhaps, in the rotation) and is built to win 100 games.
A much shorter season would leave a greater possibility for unpredictability. A fluke performance from an unexpected team could turn the season on its ear. If the Astros go through a slump, they could find themselves looking up in the standings without much time for correction. But the expanded postseason will help with that.
In truth, a longer season like the players have proposed is probably not in the cards due to fears about another wave of COVID-19 coming in the fall. Hopefully the two sides will come to an agreement this week. If not, at least it’s good to know we could at least have some semblance of a baseball season, even if it’s only 50 games.