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

Rich Dubroff

MLB players, owners squabbling during pandemic is a bad look

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.

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