The sudden COVID-19 outbreak in MLB facilities, including the Houston Astros’ facility, is delaying a resolution.
Just when it looked like we might finally have a resolution between MLB and the MLBPA over money, COVID-19 reared its ugly head. The Houston Astros had a player at their Spring Training facility test positive for the virus, as did a few other teams, causing the league to shut down all the facilities and the MLBPA to delay a key vote.
Eight people tested positive for COVID-19 at the Phillies’ Spring Training facility, while the Blue Jays and Giants had people displaying symptoms. That, combined with the positive test from the unnamed Astros player, prompted MLB to shut down all 30 teams’ Spring Training facilities for cleaning and the implementing of new protocols. That could prove to be the key impediment to a season even more than money, though that issue still remains.
Last week, MLB made an offer of a 60-game season with players getting their full prorated salaries. The MLBPA countered with a 70-game offer, which apparently angered the league after it felt there was a deal in place at 60. So the league is not responding to the 70-game offer, leaving the players to make a decision. That decision could have come today, but now may be delayed a few days.
The MLBPA will have to decide whether to accept the league’s offer of a 60-game season, but in doing so would also waive its right to file a grievance. If the players reject the offer, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred could unilaterally impose a slightly shorter schedule with players also getting their full prorated salaries. But then the players would retain their right to file a grievance.
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From the chatter I’m hearing, it sounds like the players will reject MLB’s offer. They feel like Manfred hasn’t been negotiating in good faith for most of this process, and there’s certainly a valid argument for that. Tacking on a few extra games isn’t worth giving up the right to file a grievance in their eyes, so this fight could go on even after a schedule is put in place.
The good news for the Astros is the COVID-19 positive test was limited to just one person, as about 50 other people tested negative. It sounds like they’ve been doing things right thus far, but of course there’s only so much they can do.
The testing protocols the league puts in place will be key. If this season has even a chance of getting off the ground, most everyone will have to remain free of COVID-19. An extensive rash of positive tests and quarantines would derail the season.
This will be the thing to monitor as we move forward. We all want to see our Astros defend their AL pennant, but it’ll be hard to do that if half the team can’t play. The money issue will be resolved one way or another, but the COVID-19 issue is rather unpredictable.