On Monday afternoon the Major League Baseball owners approved a proposal to be forwarded to the Major League Baseball Players Association on Tuesday at some point. There are a lot of obstacles that are expected to need to be worked out. Pay is the one that is on the mind of everyone is the way the money will break down. The two sides agreed in late March on how salary would be handled, but now MLB is trying to back track that stating they believed that deal was contingent on fans being in stadiums. They are attempting to have a revenue sharing plan for 2020 instead of the agreement that they already made with the players. And it’s reportedly a non-starter for the players association.

But for the players, it’s more than just the money. Since the beginning they’ve constantly spoken about things needing to be safe before they would return to play baseball. Sean Doolittle, who has been in the Major Leagues for eight seasons now with Oakland and Washington, and is a 2-time All-Star, went to twitter on Monday afternoon to share his thoughts on all of this.

There’s an entire thread of things he addresses, so let’s dive into it a little bit more.

He notes that there are many things we still don’t know many things about this virus, including the long-term effects. He noted that there are known respiratory issues – even among those who were asymptomatic, as well as evidence that it may also be causing kidney, intestinal, liver, and neurological malfunctions – as well as blood clots and strokes (he cites this article from the Washington Post, this article from Vox). And then there’s this article, also from Vox, that notes that there may be a link between this virus and hormone issues that may lead to fertility complications.

Doolittle also discusses that we are learning that sharing indoor spaces increases the infection risk (and he cites these articles: medRxiv.com, The Fern, and The CDC. He would like to know what modifications and preventions can be taken to the clubhouses and other facilities to prevent the potential spread of the virus. He would also like to know how frequently staff (not just the baseball roster staff, but everyone involved in the making the game happen) and players will be tested given that you spread the most virus before you ever show symptoms that you are sick (he cites this study out of Denmark).

He continues by asking about additional healthcare benefits for the players, staff, and workers that would extend beyond their employment and into their retirement given the current known risks involved with the virus. He wants, as he says “both a proactive health plan focused on prevention AND a reactive plan aimed at containment”.

Doolittle closes out his entire tweet thread with this:

It’s worth noting that as of the time this article was written and published, the proposal from Major League Baseball has not been sent to the players to review (though Tony Clark, head of the MLBPA has responded based on publicly leaked parts of the proposal). All of Sean Doolittle’s questions are things that he hopes to see addressed within it. But as a veteran player he’s likely to make his voice heard loud and clear if they aren’t, too. He’s just one guy among 1200 players in the union who will have a say. But it’s also very unlikely that he is the only one that feels this way, too.

13-year veteran Jerry Blevins, now with the Giants, quoted Doolittle’s thread and asked: “Will my conscience allow me to put my loved ones at risk?”

There will be a lot of focus on the money side of things in the coming days. There should be a lot of focus on the stuff that Sean Doolittle is talking about, too. And it’s good to see that it’s out there already, because it’s an important thing that shouldn’t be overlooked in the slightest when the public is talking about what’s being negotiated between the owners and the players, because the two sides of the table carry vastly different risks. Both sides are risking the loss of money. Only one side is risking the health of themselves and their families (and as Doolittle points out – many people who don’t get a vote in it at all – basically every non-player, including managers and coaches).

We all want baseball back on our televisions and in our lives. The players want to play. They want those paychecks, too – just like the owners do. But there needs to be safe ways to make it happen, too.

34 Responses

  1. Don

    Those are all great questions from Sean, they are questions which every person must ask themselves. All parts of life have risk and one must assess that risk vs how they live their life.

    17 days ago there was much coverage that Georgia was going to explode with cases on reopening and the reality is that the cases have a fraction of the predictions and declining fast.

    The American People when given true and accurate information will adjust how they interact so that they can survive and thrive.

    The best cure is warmer weather and get outside. Being inside makes the spread of the virus easier.

    He is correct in that something must be done indoors.

    For everyone’s safety, the players union should require UV disinfecting lights to be put in all stadiums and clubhouses, require only outdoor day games to be scheduled and played so that the natural UV rays which kill Coronavirus are at their peak.

    They should demand bigger rosters, more doubleheaders (maybe do 7 innings like a lot of minor leagues) starting at 11 AM locally so that the games are ended before dark and have a 80 to 100 game regular season done by September 1, reduce the number of playoff teams so that the playoffs are completed by October 1 with all games played in the daytime.

    This would get the season done before the annual flu season starts for all but a handful of teams.

    If they make these requests then the players really care about making for a safe work environment for all. If all they ask for is money to compensate for the risks without demanding changes to the work environment the results will speak for themselves.

    • Jim Walker

      RE: Georgia> They’ve tested 2-3% of their population and have an infection rate of about 15% of those tested. 35K confirmed cases; 6K hospitalizations; 1450 deaths. They officially report only positive tests results in case counts, hospitalizations and deaths.

      The virus case count is rampant in high population density areas (i.e. metro Atlanta). However, the case rates (per 100K population) are in same range with some higher in many, even most of the less densely populated areas. The case counts are much lower in these because the the population is so much lower. However many if these rural areas are ill equipped to deal with the small number of cases they have.

      https://dph.georgia.gov/covid-19-daily-status-report

    • Scott Benhase

      As a Georgian and a life-long Reds fan (blame my Grandpa), I take issue with your assessment: “17 days ago there was much coverage that Georgia was going to explode with cases on reopening and the reality is that the cases have a fraction of the predictions and declining fast.” Where did you get this information? It’s simply not true. Two days ago we had less than 500 new cases. Yesterday, it spiked to nearly 1000. We’re not seeing “declining fast” here in Georgia. We should stick to baseball here at Redleg Nation and not amateur epidemiology. I want MLB to return as much as anybody, but I don’t want anyone connected to it put at inordinate risk.

      • jazzmanbbfan

        Well stated Scott. I want baseball but I want safety first.

      • RedsFan11

        State of 11million people sees an increase of 500 to 1,000 cases and its considered a “dramatic spike”…

        0.00005% of the population to 0.0001% . just woah crazy….

        Baseball please

      • Fish

        There’s too much fear mongering with this. All peoples’ risk levels are not the same. In the state of KY, we’ve had to date 6700 confirmed cases, deaths for people under age 50: 7. The data is similar proportionally for any area which keeps that data (NY has good cross tabs). Most people are asymptomatic and even for those who are, most without an exacerbating condition don’t die. Most of the models that informed our response to this were based on frankly garbage data. For anyone concerned, Data analytics and modeling is what I do professionally.

  2. BK

    In your last couple of the articles, you have intimated that the owners reneged on their March agreement regarding pay. In contrast, Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich reported in their most recent article at The Athletic that the March agreement contained “economic feasibility” clause giving the owners the option to revisit pay “in instances where there are no fans.”

    So, are the Owners backtracking or exercising a clause in the signed agreement?

    • Doug Gray

      From where I, and most lawyers that have weighed in on the topic sit – the owners are trying to backtrack.

      • IndyRedsFan

        Doug,

        I’m going to have to disagree with you on this one. Per MLB Trade Rumors this morning, the clause says, “the sides also agreed in another clause to “discuss in good faith the economic feasibility of playing games in the absence of spectators.”

        If the players agreed to that, and now are not willing to negotiate in good faith, my view is that they are the ones reneging on the deal.

        From my perspective, games without fans have generate less revenue than games with fans. It would seem only common sense that the players should take that into consideration.

        The thing that really bothers me about Clark’s comments is that he is dismissing revenue sharing out of hand. Given the uncertainty of how the season will play out, I think it’s a fair proposal.

        Now…..having said that, I do think it would be legitimate for the players to say “okay, we’ll agree to revenue sharing, but we want to negotiate the percentages (eg: 55/45 vs 50/50), and we also want to negotiate what constitutes “revenue”. (ie: we want ALL of the revenue included, not just tv and gate receipts)

        If the Union was taking this position, and truly “negotiating in good faith”, I would be more sympathetic towards them.

      • Doug Gray

        I don’t think it’s a fair proposal given that the owners never once decide to share when they come into a windfall. Like when they sold off billions of dollars of BAMTech to Disney. Or when they acquired ownership stakes in regional sports networks instead of cash for television deals. OR when they simply just made more money than they expected to.

        This is a situation where the owners never, ever want to absorb any of the risk of actual business. They want to have their profits when times are good, and they want someone else to take the risk of the loss when times are not. That’s not a fair proposal.

      • Jim Walker

        Negotiating in good faith is not one side unilaterally devising a plan and presenting it to the other as a done deal to be approved. What usually happens is the two sides negotiate a tentative deal together then the two negotiation teams take the tentative agreement back to their respective groups for approval.

        Nothing resembling the above has transpired here.

      • IndyRedsFan

        Doug,

        Here’s my problem with the statement that “the owners have never been willing to share when they come into a windfall”.

        The players have consistently refused to even negotiate on the owners proposals on revenue sharing. If they had agreed to revenue sharing in the past, then they would have shared in the windfalls.

        Jim,

        I what we’re missing is the context of how the owner’s plan is being presented to the players. If it’s been presented as ‘take it or leave it”, then you’re right..that’s not negotiating in good faith.

        However, if it’s being presented as a starting point for negotiations, then it’s just that. The players then need to come back with their proposal as to how it would work for them.

        At this point, it appears the players are the ones saying “take it or leave it”. Take the deal we made in March, or nothing.

        I’m not always on the side of the owners, but in this situation, where we’re talking about one year adjustments, I think the players need to show more flexibility.

  3. BK

    Doolittle makes great points. There are business that will have to open and incur some risk to do so. For professional sports the risk should be driven as close to zero as possible. That said, if baseball can’t pull it off where players naturally socially distance while on the field, then there is virtually no chance for basketball, hockey, soccer or football … all of which have much more contact.

  4. Jim Walker

    Even more than the clubhouses, consider the dugouts. Confined spaced. Reduced airflow. Guys coming in from running the bases often huffing and puffing. Sounds like a ready made incubator for spreading the virus if an infected person gets into the environment.

    • RedNat

      with no fans, the players can easily social distance by using the stadium seating as the extended dugout. once, if ever, fans return that could be a problem as well to consider

    • Big Ed

      Jim, there aren’t really a lot of guys coming off a baseball field huffing and puffing. Maybe Jumbo Diaz after covering first. And the dugout has a bigger footprint than you are giving it credit for.

      Put a Big Ass Fan at each end, have the pitching staff out in the bullpen, space the guys out, and play. If 2,000 people can go to a Kroger every day, they can figure this out.

  5. AirborneJayJay

    “Every time the owners call this a business, the players call it a game. Every time the players call it a business, the owners call it a game.”
    In times like these, you never, ever hear the players say the things they have often said before like “I’d play this game for free if they would let me.” Things have changed quite a bit since mid March. If the players cannot accept a 50-50 revenue split AND receive a full year of service time for half a season or even less, then just bag the season. The players have already been given an advance on their pay and have been paid for April and May. For nothing. They have been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to do absolutely nothing but go home and spend time with your family. We all should have it as rough as these players have it.

    • Droslovinia

      Well if that’s the case, why not go all the way with it and tough it out like the billionaire owners? Or do they get a pass for only shafting a small number of wealthy entertainers, instead of regular people? I’m pretty sure Doolittle talked about lower-paid people, too, and should we really “have it so rough” as the minor-leaguers and fringe players who barely make enough to make ends meet, if that?

  6. I-71_Exile

    Labor squabbles under these conditions are the epitome of tone deafness, but par for the course with MLB ownership and the MLBPA. They can all rot as far as I’m concerned. As time goes by, I find myself missing baseball less and less.

    We have the Strat-O-Matic Reds to lose in their place anyway.

  7. Scott C

    I agree 100%, at least from what I read with Doolittle, the first concern is their health and their families health. Are there things in place to assure the safest possible situation, not only on the field but in the dugout and locker room. Where is the health compensation. My wife works for a bank, they are considered essential workers, the bank is compensating the front line people for that. If a bank can do that so can a MLB Owner

    • Fish

      My wife works in an ER, she’s literally just getting her normal salary and it seems like every other day she tells me she has contact with someone who tested positive for covid. I’d think the owners are looking at this from a hollistic, long term view. This will likely come up again.

      • Scott C

        Those that work in ER’s need to be getting hazard pay. God bless them.

    • Big Ed

      The players and employees, including the Castillinis themselves, are going to have some risk of exposure just by living their ordinary lives. They still go to the grocery store, bank and Home Depot; they still go to work out or exercise; and they still get exposed at home to whatever is brought home by other family members who are mixing in the community.

      These guys can work out some high-level safety protocols that will almost certainly exceed those that Kroger has. I don’t really see how running a baseball game is going to be measurably more dangerous that what is going on today, plus the weather will be hotter and they will all be outside more.

      If they wait for zero risk, there will never be another MLB game played. Or concert. Or play or movie.

      • Fish

        This. The players are more likely to die driving to the ballpark than from covid.

  8. Fish

    It sounds unlikely that there’s an agreement, I wonder what happens if there’s no season? How would that work for 2021? Free agency? Service time?

    • Old-school

      What’s the draft order for 2021? 5 rounds again?

    • Colorado Red

      Even if there is no Season, All MLB players get a year of service, that is my understanding.

      • Doug Gray

        This is incorrect. Players get the same amount of service time that they got in 2019 if no games are played this year.

  9. B

    Just get the season going! You have 10-12 high school and college aged kids Working at once in all of the fast food restaurants around for minimum wage but can’t have millionaires play one of the easiest sports to keep socially distanced in empty ballparks?

  10. Old-school

    Who doesn’t want safety? But, if the White House can’t keep it out of the White House and the Kremlin can’t either and both Prince Charles and Boris Johnson contract it, what exactly are you asking owners to guarantee that world powers can’t? Tony Fauci is in quarantine for crying out loud!

    It’s a pandemic. It’s not preventable. It’s being mitigated quite well. It’s also worth repeating it’s not ebolavurus and MLB players aren’t putting their lives on the line by playing baseball. Let’s also not pretend Michael Lorenzen or Amir Garrett are in danger unless the owners come to their rescue. Players will contract it, whether baseball is played or isn’t. Bob Castellini is 1000x more at risk than any Reds player, whether there is baseball or not. Stop the martyrdom of baseball players. Every American is living in crisis everyday dealing with risk and uncertainty. I guess the entitled MLB players can’t live in the same world we do. There’s no risk free path. They want safety and guaranteed millions. Who doesn’t in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic? Good luck with that impossible demand.

  11. RedNat

    there are 3 possible scenarios.

    1. cancel the 2020 mlb season- i think we all would agree if this happens the sport of baseball dies. I mean, we are talking being placed in between women’s college basketball and boxing on the espn website. Coffin and nails dead.

    2. play the season and a tragedy occurs. a player or more likely coach, God forbid, becomes critically ill or worse. in this scenario baseball dies but so do all other team sports for the forseable future. no nhl, nba, nfl, mls or mlb for a long time. So baseball really doesn’t “lose ground” against other sports.

    3. play the season and no major illnesses or breakouts occur. This scenario would really put baseball on the map again as our national pastime. the players really would be considered national heroes as they are literally risking their lives to play and provide entertainment for us. And it doesn’t have to be masterpiece, 1927 vs brm baseball either. just put a product on the fiield. if veterans want to sit out, that is fine. there are plenty of minor leaguers that i am sure would happily volunteer to replace them.

    i think the owners seem to understand the long term implications of playing versus not playing a little more than the players. at least that is the perception i have. just think of the momentum basebal would carry into 2021, especially if nfl and nba is cancelled for 2020-2021 which is a distinct possiblity due the nature of the close contact of those sports

  12. Steven D

    My worry is this, The owners look at a bottom line figure. They are not fans like we are. So if they truly think they will lose money by keeping prorated salaries, they are not going to have a 2020 season, it’s as simple as that. The owners do not care about having a season because it will entertain us. They care about having a profitable season from an economic standpoint. There’s no way they will have a season if it looks like they will be going into the red. So the question is, will the players cave? I’m not saying they should, but I think that is our only hope of a 2020 season. If the players want any $ at all this year they probably should make some concessions. IMO a 2020 season looks very bleak without renegotiating player salaries