Owners, players face difficult obstacles on way to 2020 baseball season - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Owners, players face difficult obstacles on way to 2020 baseball season

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

It’s far from certain that the baseball season will begin in early July. Not only does national health have to allow for it, but players have to agree to the special conditions that Major League Baseball is proposing to guard against the coronavirus, and that’s problematic.

After reading a number of summaries of the proposals MLB made to the Players Association regarding health guidelines, it’s going to require countless adjustments by players.

On the road, some players like to get to the ballpark early to work out or mentally prepare for a night game. They take a taxi, Uber or Lyft. In New York, a few take the subway.

That would be forbidden under the rules. Spending time indoors is discouraged, and meetings are to be held outdoors.

Many players come on the team bus to the game. Under this plan, all of them would, and they’d be encouraged to come to the ballpark in uniform and to delay showering until they return to the hotel.

Once they get back to the team hotel, a late-night walk would be prohibited. No leaving the hotel.

Some game customs would change. No exchange of the lineup cards because that would violate social distancing. No spitting. Since there won’t be any fans, mascots would be banned, and to cut down on personnel at the ballpark, the out-of-town scoreboards won’t be operating.

The 67-page proposal was incredibly complex, and so are the issues dividing the sides.

Although MLB has said it would like a one-time 50/50 division of revenue, the players have indicated their disdain for it, believing that’s a salary cap, something they’ve never accepted.

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MLB says that teams would lose huge amounts of money in games without fans. The Orioles are estimated to lose $90 million this year without revenues derived from tickets, concessions and parking. That figure is the second lowest of the 30 teams.

Players are skeptical of the economics and, with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement scheduled to be worked on a year from now, a sense of uneasiness pervades the sport and its fans.

Millions of baseball fans have lost their jobs during the pandemic. Others have had to accept furloughs and/or cuts in pay. Others are frightened that if the economy doesn’t improve, they’ll join the unlucky millions.

During the more than two months without baseball, fans have hoped that their sport would return, even if they can’t.

If the sport is to return in early July, it will be without fans, and it will be very different.

The sides have to agree on the health guidelines before they get to acrimonious economic issues, and discord there could hurt the most.

Fans who’ve suffered economic losses want to partially escape their issues by watching baseball, and they’ll have little patience if the sides can’t reach an agreement.

In late March, the players agreed to be paid on a prorated basis only for the games that were played. However, MLB contends that was only if paying fans were allowed. As it currently stands, players would get just over half their scheduled salaries based on an 82-game season. The owners say that’s not what they agreed to.

It’s imperative that an agreement be made because baseball would look bad if its season fell apart over economics. If the season couldn’t be played because of health reasons, that’s not good, but it’s an acceptable reason.

If there’s no baseball in 2020 because the sides can’t come to an agreement, it will do irreparable harm to a sport that lost millions of fans because of the 1994-1995 labor strife.

Many fans swore off baseball then, and never returned. They watched other sports or found activities to replace baseball.

Twenty-five years later, it’s a more crowded sports and entertainment environment. If fans leave baseball, they have more choices, and the sport would have a near-impossible task to lure them back.

In 1995, baseball had Cal Ripken Jr. and his streak. Ripken spent hours signing autographs, and that really helped the game, but still many fans were gone.

Now, owners and players have to be sensitive to the losses that so many of their fans have suffered.

It’s not acceptable if the owners and players write off the season because of economics and say they’ll look to 2021.

There’s no assurance that when spring training is supposed to begin next February conditions will be normal. Hopefully, a vaccine for the coronavirus will be available, but until it is or the virus runs its course, fans would be wary of coming to games.

And, there’s that CBA to negotiate after next season, too. Most fans have little interest in the economics. They just want to see the games.

If owners and players can’t come to an agreement now when times are rough, and fans are desperate to see baseball, why would they find the footing easier in 2021?

Generations of players have come and gone since the last work stoppage. Most of the owners are new to the game, too.

Players Association executive director Tony Clark didn’t start his major league career until 1995, and commissioner Rob Manfred was a lawyer advising MLB during the last stoppage.

They remember the pain and how difficult it was for baseball to recover. If they lose the season this time, it will be even harder.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. cedar

    May 20, 2020 at 7:49 am

    The first and most important agreement to be negotiated has to be the health and safety of those who will participate in the games. Until that is worked out there is no point in arguing about the economics. Agree first on how to get games played and then argue about the dollars.

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 20, 2020 at 8:15 am

      That’s what they’re doing, cedar.

  2. Boog Robinson Robinson

    May 20, 2020 at 8:45 am

    Not that I’m totally empathic with them, but I’m with the owners all the way with this one. Losing millions on top of millions while your employee’s rake it in just doesn’t seem right. The owners didn’t create this mess.

    The player’s stance sickens me. Their collective selfishness should be an embarrassment to the lot of them.

    • dlgruber1

      May 20, 2020 at 3:00 pm

      BRR I’m shocked I agree with you because I’m one of those that has always said the fans don’t come to see the owners. However, in this set of circumstances, being that there will be no fans coming to the games, if the players can’t accept a one-time 50/50 revenue share with the owners then that’ll probably be my last straw. I’m 60 years old and a lifelong O’s fan but the greed of the players is something that escapes me right now.

    • CalsPals

      May 20, 2020 at 3:09 pm

      Totally agree, some people have “REAL” essential jobs, any player complaining is a greedy person, Snell’s comment that he wouldn’t take a pay cut was insane, he would play for the full amount makes his its too dangerous remark idiotic, the danger isn’t going to change if you’re making minimum wage or millions…if they cannot get this worked out the players will undoubtedly come out looking the greedy people they are…go O’s…

  3. Birdland

    May 20, 2020 at 9:14 am

    While I understand the players are concerned about the health risks if they return, how is that any different than the health risks the rest of the world encounters as they return to work whether it be at a hospital, restaurant, office environment or a manufacturing plant. There is no way for anyone to be 100% safe. It seems like MLB has put the best possible safety policies into place to protect the players. Play ball!

  4. Bancells Moustache

    May 20, 2020 at 9:49 am

    I usually lean more towards the players but I have to side with ownership here. The players are focused on the interests of them and their families. Nothing wrong with that at all, mind you. But the owners have to take the long view, and I don’t believe MLBPA appreciates the mammoth gravity of this situation. This is MLB’s “Churchill after Dunkirk” moment. Failure now would be a blow baseball would never recover from.

    Get it done. Don’t tell us about the labor pains, give us the goddamn baby.

  5. garyintheloo

    May 20, 2020 at 12:21 pm

    I am becoming pessimistic about an MLB season this year. I think all the gyrations with no minor leagues, some players questioning whether they will play, offbeat rules and schedules mean two things: 1. Both sides need to realize that something needs to work out to avoid a strike in 2021 or 2022. 2. The Houston Astros sold their souls to the devil and fan retribution for their cheating is already old news. I am interested in seeing how Austin Hayes and Ryan Mountcastle do if there is a season. Give us a real reason to watch. Responsible people with income challenges will find other ways to spend whatever funds they have.

  6. Shamus

    May 20, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    Oh Boo Hoo ,the players being inconvenienced… what about the unemployed and the small businesses that may go under… as much as I love and miss the game, maybe I will learn to live without it.. these guys better look at the big picture

  7. ClayDal

    May 20, 2020 at 3:41 pm

    I am still optimistic that an agreement will be reached. I tend to cut both sides some slack, since this is something that occurs every 100 years or so. And back in 1918, there was no cable TV or million dollar contracts. It does seem bizarre that the agreement reached in March didn’t address games without fans. That should have been specified back in March. If I were advising the players, I would tell them to keep their mouths shut, and let the union negotiate for them. Never helps in these situations to negotiate through the media. As for the owners, they shouldn’t have leaked out the 50/50 proposal without talking to the union representatives. Best guess is that the players accept some form of revenue sharing with the owners, but not 50/50. Owners and players will make some concessions, as they always do. Neither side benefits from a long season, so something should get done. Besides, all this posturing is just a dress rehearsal for when the labor agreement expires next year

    • ClayDal

      May 20, 2020 at 3:42 pm

      That should be lost season, not long

  8. Orial

    May 20, 2020 at 5:39 pm

    Ok Rich now I’m confused. They players agreed to be paid a prorated games played and the owners only want to pay them for games they play. Am I missing something isn’t that the same thing?

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 20, 2020 at 6:19 pm

      Orial, the players agreed to be paid prorated for games played, and the owners say that agreement was for games played before a paying crowd. They want a 50/50 share of revenues with players, which the players don’t want.

  9. OriolesNumber1Fan

    May 20, 2020 at 6:09 pm

    Orioles will lose $90 million without revenues from tickets, concessions and parking and that was the second lowest of all MLB teams! This goes to show even with the Orioles trying to be the lowest prices, still shows most company’s would go bankrupt over this number. And all of this comes from the FANS! High $$$ numbers teams get for cable deals also is generated from fans buying cable. So without the FANS either paying from home to watch on cable or going to the stadium to watch in person, there would be no baseball. So the players ought to heed the message that once and for all, without the FANS there would not be any baseball. This also shows that the ownership most fans are against, takes all the risk when there is no baseball, due to players guaranteed contracts.

  10. WorldlyView

    May 20, 2020 at 7:39 pm

    Let’s assume that multiple problems somehow get worked out and a truncated season begins.
    There is then a high probability that sooner or later, multiple (more than one) players, coaches, managers, trainers, umpires, etc. test positive for the virus. According to protocol, this means some or all players on the affected teams have to go into temporary quarantine.
    If this happens, what is the effect on the legitimacy of won-loss records, personal and team statistics, etc.? Does the season even continue? These are questions for greater baseball minds than mine.

    • Raymo

      May 20, 2020 at 8:28 pm

      Those are very important questions that must be answered before play begins.

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 20, 2020 at 9:27 pm

      Professor Cohen, last week, I wrote that this will be the season of the asterisk.

      • WorldlyView

        May 21, 2020 at 2:18 am

        IF there is a season, there will be so many asterisks that irrelevance will be the name of the game.

  11. Nellie

    May 20, 2020 at 8:10 pm

    Crime, corruption, COVID-19 and a poor product,…..good-by baseball in Baltimore. Sorry folks.

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