MLB offers 76-game season, playoffs rise up to 16 teams

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Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

FILE - In this Aug. 29, 2019, file photo, the sun sets behind Citi Field during a baseball game between the New York Mets and the Chicago Cubs in New York. Major League Baseball players ignored claims by clubs that they need to take additional pay cuts, instead proposing they receive a far higher percentage of salaries and a commit to a longer schedule as part of a counteroffer to start the coronavirus-delayed season. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)

NEW YORK – Major League Baseball has made another try to start the coronavirus-delayed season in early July, proposing a 76-game regular season, expanding the playoffs from 10 teams to as many as 16 and allowing players to earn about 75% of their prorated salaries.

Players have refused cuts beyond what they agreed to in March shortly after the pandemic began, part of baseball's again acrimonious labor relations. The arduous negotiations have jeopardized plans to hold opening day around the Fourth of July in empty ballparks and provide entertainment to a public still emerging from months of quarantine.

MLB’s latest proposal would guarantee 50% of players’ prorated salaries over the regular season, according to details obtained by The Associated Press.

The proposal would eliminate all free-agent compensation for the first time since the free-agent era started in 1976. It also would forgive 20% of the $170 million in salaries already advanced to players during April and May.

“If the players desire to accept this proposal, we need to reach an agreement by Wednesday,” Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem wrote in a letter to union negotiator Bruce Meyer that was obtained by The Associated Press. “While we understand that it is a relatively short time frame, we cannot waste any additional days if we are to have sufficient time for players to travel to spring training, conduct COVID-19 testing and education, conduct a spring training of an appropriate length, and schedule a 76-game season that ends no later than Sept. 27.”

“While we are prepared to continue discussion past Wednesday on a season with fewer than 76 games, we simply do not have enough days to schedule a season of that length unless an agreement is reached in the next 48 hours,” he added.

There was no immediate response from the union, which is likely to view the plan as a step back because of the large percentage of salaries not guaranteed.

“There’s social unrest in our country amid a global pandemic. Baseball won’t solve these problems, but maybe it could help,” Washington pitcher Sean Doolittle tweeted. “We’ve been staying ready & we proposed 114 games — to protect the integrity of the game, to give back to our fans & cities, and because we want to play.”