This is a big week for the sport of baseball and MLB more specifically, as we are closing in on June 1. In an ideal world, if there is going to be baseball in 2020 it seems like the league would like to get their “spring training” started by June 10 in order to get the regular season going within a week or so of the start of July. Obviously, if that is going to happen they are going to need to have a deal in place sooner than later.
Leading up to this week, we have heard that the owners are not going to start a season with the deal they had already agreed upon on March 26, and were looking to make a new deal based on the fact that no fans will be in the crowd. From where I’m standing, that’s a little ridiculous since it was pretty clear even back in March that having no fans in the stands was an extremely real possibility, but there is a clause in that deal to reopen negotiations, and people who know more about the legalities of this sort of thing seem to be split on whether or not the clubs are in the right on this particular issue, so I won’t pretend like I know better than them.
We had heard that the plan for the league was to implement a 50/50 revenue split with the players for the season, something the union was never going to accept because of its possible implications for a salary cap in the near future as well as the simple fact that the owners would never offer this sort of thing if revenue was booming. There was a lot of hand-wringing over the player’s stance on this, and as it turns out they never rejected it because it was never even offered. It was simply negotiation through the media, always a fun thing to witness from the outside.
There was an official offer made on Tuesday, however, with a sliding scale in which players who make the most money lose the most money. This is more reasonable from the players perspective, one would think, than the revenue split, though the specifics are still important. And once the specifics came out, it was clear this was not going to happen.
Seen another way: 82-game prorated salaries vs. MLB's proposal— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 26, 2020
There is simply no way the players are going to accept this, and the league is absolutely going to win the PR battle here by making the richest players in the game turn down a pay cut. They always win the PR battle in these situations anyway, but that would seem to be the purpose for this, as well as the immediate leak to the media. It’s no coincidence that every step of this negotiation has been reported by league-friendly reporters time and again through this whole process. The league also gets the added benefit of potentially splitting the union over this issue, which only plays into their hand in the long-term.
The thing you’ll hear a lot of today is that this was the first offer, and that’s only sort of true. It is indeed the first official offer since it was made clear that the initial agreement would not be upheld, and also ignores the revenue split offer, which was an offer just one that was made via public channels rather than real negotiation. The most perplexing part of all this, to me at least, is that this just alienates the players on whom the league most depends, as Brett Anderson pointed out on Twitter.
Ultimately, this negotiation is not done and the players will counter with something likely sooner than later, and potentially even later today. Look for a league-friendly spin on that being leaked out to the media today as well. We all want baseball back, and hopefully there is a way to get it done that is fair and, more importantly, safe. But even beyond anything specific with any of these proposals, all I want is for this to be done behind closed doors rather than through the media. It seems like the bare minimum of an ask, no?