There are some very real health reasons as to why the Major League Baseball Players Association could be hesitant to get back to playing baseball. Last night the UFC held their first event since the world of American-based sports shut down and a fight was cancelled from the card after one fighter and multiple members of his team tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday. Professional soccer leagues in both Germany and in Spain have had multiple players test positive in the last few days after attempting to get back to practicing, leading to an entire team needing to quarantine for the next two weeks in Germany, postponing games for the team. Some players in Major League Baseball have spoken publicly about the risk involved, both for them and their families, as well as for the team staff and stadium operations staff that may be at more risk for severe complications – or worse – from contracting COVID-19.
But there may be another issue that is involved later this week when Major League Baseball is scheduled to formally introduce a plan to get baseball started back up again: Salary. We’ve talked about it before here at Redleg Nation, but back in late March the two sides agreed to a pay scale for the 2020 season. It included an up-front lump sum of $170,000,000 to the MLBPA to distribute to their members and that was there whether a season was to be played or not. They also agreed that if a season were to be played, the players would get a pro-rated salary based on the number of games that were actually played, minus that lump sum paid out earlier.
Well, in the last two weeks we’ve began to hear that the owners want to change that deal because it’s clear that there aren’t going to be fans in the stands anytime soon, and even if they do eventually get to a point where some fans can come in – it’s going to be at drastically reduced levels.
Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports is now reporting that NBC Sports has been told that “There is going to be a way” if owners seek further player salary reductions. The players are reportedly furious over this given that the two sides already agreed upon things six weeks ago. Calcaterra notes this within his article:
When Major League Baseball’s owners have received unexpected revenue windfalls in the past, be it from greater-than-projected attendance, massively-increased TV deals, or billion dollar paydays due to franchise sales or spinoffs of their digital properties, they do not renegotiate player contracts upward. There are not bonuses distributed when a team or the league has a better-than-expected year.
As such, the players argue, why should the players be expected to take pay cuts because this is going to be a rough year at the gate? Is this not a situation in which the league and its owners are demanding all of the upsides of good economic fortune but none of the risks of bad ones? As the old saying goes, are they not asking to privatize all of the profits but socialize all of the losses?
Those two paragraphs are followed up with some details about how it’s possible that even with no fans in the stands that Major League Baseball as a whole may still be profitable this year because of just how much television money is on the table.
Major League Baseball is said to be sending the plan, whatever it is, to ownership groups across baseball on Monday. If the owners vote to approve that plan it will be sent over to the players association on Tuesday for them to look at. It could be a very interesting week. As Arnold says in Jurassic Park: Hold onto your butts.