Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association had reached an agreement in March that paid the players a $170 million non-refundable advance, established a prorated basis for pay in a shortened season, and guaranteed their service time even if the season was canceled. As has been roundly discussed since, however, the league and union are at odds over additional concessions.
Ownership believes the agreement in place allows for the possibility that players should take pay cuts due to lost revenue from playing games in empty stadiums. The players, on the other hand, believe the agreement states clearly that they will receive full prorated paychecks, period. Evan Drellich of The Athletic reported recently that MLB’s proposal for restarting the 2020 season is expected to demand further compromise from players ($) on the economic side, with a temporary revenue-sharing option among the possible solutions.
The union, already bracing for what could be a protracted battle over the new collective bargaining agreement that will be negotiated following the 2021 season, is not going to take kindly to such requirements. Between losing badly on the current CBA, then missing out on what figures to be at least half a season of pay and seeing MLB push ahead with a truncated five-round draft following MLBPA’s rejection of a 10-round proposal, the union needs to dig its heels in or risk being rolled over yet again.
As Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports reported Sunday, that could mean there’s “going to be a war” over the pay structure for whatever form of season we end up getting. That’s completely understandable when you consider how average salaries have actually decreased while baseball’s overall revenues have continued to set new records each year. Have owners gone to the union with a request for players to accept higher salaries in light of bigger TV deals and other revenue streams?
Also in question is the owners’ claim that playing games in empty ballparks will be more costly than not playing the games at all. But such logic is based on the notion that gate and concession money is paramount to overall revenue. While those figures are surely nothing to sneeze at, television and advertising money is the king when it comes to income. That will be even more the case in the event of a restart, since the thirst for live sports will bring in a major spike in advertising revenue.
None of this is necessarily novel, though it’s another wrinkle in what is already a very challenging logistical operation. And make no mistake, the league and some of its allies are going to do everything in their very considerable power to paint the players as the bad guys should this drag out. It’ll be the millionaires playing a child’s game who are deciding to keep hard-working American citizens from being able to watch their national pastime, not the beneficent billionaires who want only to bestow their adoring fans with the gift of sport.
You can also rest assured that plenty of people will be happy to carry the owners’ water pails for them, which is ironic given the hot takes you’re sure to see out there. In the meantime, let’s just cross our fingers and hope the league comes to its senses on this one and doesn’t try to pick a fight. Not that we should give the benefit of the doubt on that.