MLB players, owners squabbling during pandemic is a bad look - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

MLB players, owners squabbling during pandemic is a bad look

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

Now, the fight begins. The Players Association, according to its executive director, Tony Clark, is objecting to the proposal by Major League Baseball to share revenues during a coronavirus pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

Clark, who spoke to The Athletic, said that the owners’ plan won’t work for the players. “A system that restricts player pay based on revenues is a salary cap, period,” Clark said.

According to multiple published reports, the owners want an 82-game regular season that begins in early July with expanded playoffs. In their proposal, 14 teams would qualify for the postseason instead of 10.

Teams would play only within their division and the corresponding division in the other league to limit travel

The Orioles would play their AL East rivals Boston, New York, Tampa Bay and Toronto and five National League East teams — Atlanta, Miami, New York, Philadelphia and Washington.

The designated hitter would be used for all games. The All-Star Game, scheduled for Dodger Stadium on July 14, won’t be played.

Active rosters, which were to be increased from 25 to 26 for this season, will rise to 30 for 2020 with a 20-player taxi squad available. Presumably, there won’t be a minor league season, and players not on the active roster and minor leaguers would play in extended spring games at training complexes.

Baseball has enjoyed 24 years without a work stoppage, and the collective bargaining agreement with the players expires after the 2021 season. The last work stoppage in 1994 and 1995 was caused by the players objecting to a salary cap. If they agree to revenue sharing for this season, they fear the owners will try to impose one in the upcoming negotiations.

The sport simply can’t endure major labor issues in advance of a season that both sides are itching to play. Although unemployment has skyrocketed, and millions of fans are suddenly without jobs, it’s a horrible look for both sides to be squabbling over money.

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The players and owners quickly came to an agreement on March 26, calling for the players to make a prorated salary based on the number of games played this season.

However, the players contend that agreement was predicated on paid admissions and, assuming the season does begin, that there won’t be fans in the stands and may not be in many or most stadiums for the entire 2020 season.

The owners contend without revenue from admissions, concessions and parking, they can’t afford to pay roughly half the players’ salaries for 2020. What they’re asking for is a one-time revenue sharing system in which the players would receive 50 percent of revenue.

Even if the players and owners agree on a financial framework, and the conditions for the season, they must find a way to regularly test players, umpires, coaches, managers and other staffers for the coronavirus. They also need to establish a protocol for what to do if a player is found to test positive.

If MLB has ready access to tests, and first-responders don’t, will that play with the American public hungry for televised sports?

If societal conditions allow, and an agreement between the players and owners is achieved, teams could begin a two- to three-week training period, which could be held in either their home ballpark or their spring training facility. Regular-season games would be played in home stadiums, when possible.

For the Orioles, training in Sarasota would be advantageous because there are multiple fields at the Ed Smith Stadium complex, but economically it might be preferable to train in Baltimore.

There are nine potential opponents for spring training games — the four AL East teams, and Atlanta, Detroit, Minnesota, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh — within a 90-minute drive of Sarasota. Only the Phillies and Nationals are within a 90-minute drive of Baltimore.

Specifics of the 82-game schedule haven’t been reported, but if the Orioles play 13 games against each of their four divisional opponents and six games against the NL East teams, that could work.

Originally, players were hoping for a longer schedule, adding as much as a month to the regular season. However, the owners, fearful of a second wave of the coronavirus this fall, don’t want to lose out on the television revenue of an expanded postseason.

Much of their revenue comes from postseason TV and, in the event of an entirely or largely fanless season, that money is key.

With 14 teams in the postseason, the team with the best record in each league would be exempt from playing in the expanded first round. The other 12 teams would face each other in best-of-three wild-card playoffs.

Under this system, the postseason could conclude in early November.

World Baseball Classic canceled: The World Baseball Classic, scheduled to be held during next year’s spring training, has reportedly been postponed until 2023.

The WBC, which was won by the United States for the first time in 2017, doesn’t want to conflict with the Olympics, which has been postponed from 2020 until 2021.

The possibility of a shortened offseason also hurts the WBC, which forces players into championship game-like conditions far earlier than normal.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

34 Comments

34 Comments

  1. CalsPals

    May 12, 2020 at 7:31 am

    It is what it is, union shouldn’t control the rules, I know they do, buy fewer gold chains, if they really used their brains this COULD be a defining moment in MLB, I’m just afraid of what it’ll define, totally agree Rich, it is a bad look, many of them probably didn’t get the govt checks, so they’ll need to play for some cash flow…lol…go O’s…

    • Orial

      May 12, 2020 at 8:19 am

      Well said and true–A Difining Moment.

  2. Birdman

    May 12, 2020 at 7:43 am

    I am usually more sympathetic to the players than the owners, but this sounds like an unrealistic position by the Players Association. With no revenue from paid admissions, the players need to temporarily accept a different structure for determining salaries.

    And I agree that the testing issue could become a PR nightmare for MLB. With front line health workers still unable to get testing in many places, how will MLB justify daily tests for players, coaches, and umpires?

  3. Greazy Tony

    May 12, 2020 at 8:12 am

    Not surprising at all that the owners negotiated in bad faith back in March. Billionaires abhor sticking to the deals they make. If I were Tony Clark it’d tell the owners that they can have any revenue spread they want with one stipulation: the owners have to come to the ballpark everyday and have to be around all the players, trainers and staff. Let’s see if they’re willing to put themselves at risk like they want the players and team staff to do.

    • Bancells Moustache

      May 12, 2020 at 9:12 pm

      Then let the players put up the money to play the games and face the liability risk associated with opening to the public.

      They are playing baseball in the sunshine, not going to Afghanistan.

  4. CB in CC

    May 12, 2020 at 8:35 am

    This shouldn’t be that difficult to figure out…
    Players pay is based per game. For games played with no fans, they do revenue sharing. When games have fans, they get the prorated portion of their pay. Write into the agreement that revenue sharing applies ONLY when games are played WITHOUT fans in attendance. Considering there is a possibility that governments may shut down states again, both sides would be wise to build a contingency into their next CBA.

    Regarding testing, it looks horrible if any group has access to testing more frequently than first responders/healthcare workers. PR nightmare!

  5. Orial

    May 12, 2020 at 8:38 am

    If the MLBPA is concerned that a “give-back” could become permanent in future negotiations add a clause stating it WON’T be added in future negotiations. I can understand the owners’ concerns-that’s a lot of money to deal out with nothing coming in. How about the owners sit down with certain players/agents and try to defer some of these contracts. Like CalPals said–this is a defining moment. If the money issue brings baseball to a hault–the size of this Back Eye on the game, when the sport direly needs positive news to compete with the NFL,would be astronomical. If the MLBPA wants to claim safety concerns I’ll understand(kinda). Yes Rich with food lines,jobs disappearing,and a 20% unemployment rate baseball can ill afford this “Black Eye”. But ya know what?—the players will STILL say no. That’s scary and awful.

    • CalsPals

      May 12, 2020 at 9:32 am

      Orial, well said, think how it might help MLB to get closer to their creed, the National pastime, it no longer is (it is in our household), but when they could be helping our nation by getting back on the field, they should, seriously, Prescott-NFL complaining about a pay increase from ONLY just above 2 million $ to over $31 million, & he’s done nothing, athletes are grossly overpaid, doctors, nurses, educators, athletes are WAY down the list…getting off my soapbox…go O’s…

      • Rich Dubroff

        May 12, 2020 at 10:17 am

        Ray, if ballplayers were paid less, doctors, nurses and educators wouldn’t be paid more. As someone who’s married to an essential worker in the medical field, I value her contributions, and American society has shown its appreciation.

    • CalsPals

      May 12, 2020 at 10:21 am

      Rich, I didn’t say they would be paid more, I insinuated all three SHOULD be paid more than athletes, during this pandemic many people have shown their appreciation, just not by paying them more…go O’s…

      • BirdfanVA

        May 12, 2020 at 2:00 pm

        CalsPals, I agree with you. These people should be paid more than athletes. While showing appreciation is nice, when people in the medical field or education (my daughter is a teacher ) go to the grocery store, the checkout clerk doesn’t care how appreciated the person is, the clerk wants $$$.

    • Bmoreravens3

      May 15, 2020 at 10:29 pm

      @BirdsfanVA The clerk at the grocery store is also an essential worker dealing/coming into contact with hundreds of people a day at a very low wage so that everyone can still receive their groceries and household needs.

  6. Baltimore Castaway

    May 12, 2020 at 8:47 am

    Rich, thank you for a very well-written article on the current state of whether baseball will be played this season. Have not been following this subject too closely and your reporting here is informative and easy to understand.

    Still seems like it’s going to be a flip of the coin if they ever do play in 2020.

    It would be a shame to not have Baseball this year. Am hoping that they can figure this out. I have lost all confidence in this Commissioner based on how poorly and unfairly he has treated the Orioles.

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 12, 2020 at 10:15 am

      Thank you, Mr. Thompson!

  7. Tony Paparella

    May 12, 2020 at 10:06 am

    I guess it does not look good to be bickering over wages at this time where in actuality the safety of all the participants should be the number one priority.I have been involved in negotiations before and I would not be surprised if the owners are just making these new demands just to ensure the players association doesn’t veer off from the original agreement in March.However I can understand if revenues do not reach projections the owners have a concern about not getting their return.Also in actuality neither party would suffer too much if they do not receive what they want, which is the reason for this topic as far as the fans being disappointed with all those involved from the perspective of greed versus the present environment.The bottom line again is the safety of all involved and it would not surprise me if enough players,participants (umpires,etc.) balk at the entirety of returning to the game without a guarantee of protection from this virus.And at this stage that cannot be done.

    • BirdsCaps

      May 12, 2020 at 9:56 pm

      I fully agree with you in regards to the negotiations. I also agree that complete or near complete safety from the virus is not happening anytime soon. The question is if society continues to lockdown or it prices in a higher amount of risk (likely .2-.7% Ifr without controlling for age/comorbidities).

  8. Rmays

    May 12, 2020 at 10:49 am

    Thank God they are negotiating. The Owners want them to play, the players want to play, the Networks want this to happen, and the fans will devour this. I think they will play. Everyone wants this to happen. Negotiations are just part of the process.

  9. ClayDal

    May 12, 2020 at 10:52 am

    I’m optimistic that both sides can reach an agreement. In the history of labor/management negotiations, labor never accepts managements original offer-especially when it’s released in the media. Both sides have legitimate issues. The owners are obviously losing revenue without fans in the stands. Players have health concerns such as players like Anthony Rizzo , Jon Lester, and Carlos Carrasco , who have weaker immune systems due to chemotherapy. A lost season doesn’t benefit either side, especially the younger players who aren’t making the huge salaries yet. So I expect they will reach an agreement to play this year. Besides, this is just a dress rehearsal for negotiations on the next CBA which expires next year

  10. Bancells Moustache

    May 12, 2020 at 11:23 am

    Beyond a bad look. If MLB and MLBPA scuttle this opportunity by bickering, for the whole world to see, over how to split the revenue between 2 obscenely rich factions all while millions are wondering if they’ll be able to feed their kids, it’s outright suicide.

    • CalsPals

      May 12, 2020 at 1:31 pm

      Amen…go O’s…

    • Bmoreravens3

      May 15, 2020 at 10:44 pm

      Exactly. Blake Snell & Bryce Harper should be permanently let out of their contracts and free them to the “real world” so they can experience just what everyone else is

    • CalsPals

      May 17, 2020 at 4:14 pm

      I need a new Title 1 reading teacher, oh wait, they’re not qualified…go O’s…

  11. pslyjr

    May 12, 2020 at 11:35 am

    Have they considered playing the All Star game after the season in same location, LA?

    • ClayDal

      May 12, 2020 at 11:42 am

      Can’t see them playing the All-Star game after the season. See the Pro Bowl. The 2021 game is in Atlanta and the 2026 game in Philadelphia-250th anniversary of the country. 2022-25 is still up for grabs. Most likely LA gets one of those years to make up for this year. Maybe one day the Orioles will host another All-Star game- but apparently they have never applied for one

      • Bancells Moustache

        May 12, 2020 at 12:01 pm

        Never applied? Come again?

    • ClayDal

      May 12, 2020 at 12:14 pm

      A team has to apply to MLB to host an All-Star Game. Make a presentation, explain why the game should be held there. The Orioles haven’t asked MLB to host an All-Star game under Angelos. General feeling is that because the Orioles are suing MLB over the MASN dispute, MLB wouldn’t look favorably on the Orioles application. But MLB can justifiably say that the Orioles haven’t asked to host the All Star game

      • Bancells Moustache

        May 12, 2020 at 5:14 pm

        Never knew that. The groupthink is that MLB is denying them because of the lawsuit. Now you’re telling me they’ve never even applied?

  12. Boog Robinson Robinson

    May 12, 2020 at 12:44 pm

    Frankly, I’d gladly give up the entire rest of the MLB season if we could only have 2 weeks of games played in Williamsport.

    • CalsPals

      May 12, 2020 at 1:33 pm

      Wow, TOTALLY agree w/you Boog, some of the best watched games my son & ever had…go O’s…

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        May 12, 2020 at 1:57 pm

        And the participants don’t care a rat’s whisker about compensation.

        Off the subject, but I think this is where MLB is losing their audience. The 9 to 12 year old that plays little league all summer long simply doesn’t exist anymore unless they’re one of the lucky few than are good enough make their town’s travel team or who’s father coaches it.

    • CalsPals

      May 12, 2020 at 3:32 pm

      Remember when there was only little league, in my area most of us played pick up games…go O’s…

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        May 12, 2020 at 8:24 pm

        Yes, I grew up in a relatively small town and on army posts where a youngster was able to walk or ride his bike to play in pickup games. I’m sure those places still exists, but not in NoVa where I live. A boy is literallyrisking his life riding his bike more than a few miles on our roads.

        And then there is the devil known as the Video Game factor …

  13. BirdsCaps

    May 12, 2020 at 4:07 pm

    Call me horrible, but I am somewhat sympathetic to both sides. Just because there is a pandemic, doesn’t mean that negotiations wouldn’t show the weakness of either side on future negotiations. With that said, if the season isn’t played due to a work stoppage ill be ticked. While I am much less optimistic than I was a month ago, I can see a world with fans at games. Obviously, the facts on the ground would have to change, or there would have to be an advance in treatment. Last wk I got my half season plan packet from Aberdeen and would love to be able to see games this yr. If things go well, I almost wonder if there is a shot of a shortened fall ball for milb this year. I would also love to see the New York Penn League one more time as many of the franchises are likely in their final yr of existence (shockingly this includes rather big names such as Staten Island and Lowell). We’ll see what happens.

  14. Stevegr

    May 19, 2020 at 12:49 pm

    I would love baseball to have a hard salary cap in the long run, but the players should do whatever they can to make this happen this year. Very bad look for the players to bicker over money this year. Next year is coming and they get to renegotiate their deal then.

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