There’s been a whole lot written in the last few days about the on-goings between Major League Baseball (the central office), Major League Baseball owners, the Major League Baseball Players Association, and the Major League Baseball players (individual level) with regards to the negotiations, expectations, realities, and well – everything else surrounding what it’s going to take to get baseball back in 2020. We’ve written about some of it here at Redleg Nation, too, wondering about whether players could choose to not play even if the MLBPA votes to play out of individual health concerns, how the revenue sharing plan proposed by the owners is a no-go, and how Sean Doolittle outlined a plethora of non-monetary concerns that he and other players would like to see addressed before they are ready to get back on the field. And that’s just the stuff in the last 30 hours.

We aren’t the only place to weigh in on this, of course. So let’s take a look at some of the other pieces written about what’s happening right now.

Privatize the Profits, Socialize the Losses

Craig Goldstein weighs in at Baseball Prospectus today on how the owners in Major League Baseball want to renegotiate their agreement with the players so they they don’t have to assume any risk of loss in 2020, categorizing it as such:

The owners in Major League Baseball aren’t entitled to a profit just because the last few decades have provided one. Owners like to say that baseball is a business, that capital is entitled to its profits because it takes all the risks. Ownership has certainly taken the profits over these last few decades, but now that they are in question, they’re asking players to share the pain; owners seek to inoculate themselves from the very risk used to justify their percentage of the profits. More succinctly, they’ve privatized the profits, and now want to socialize the losses.

There is a whole lot in the article from Goldstein that you should probably check out for a more detailed breakdown of team revenues, where they come from, and the like.

The Battle over the 2020 MLB Season is about to get ugly

We aren’t saying that Jeff Passan and ESPN stole our headline from over the weekend, but we aren’t not saying it, either. All joking aside, Passan lays out how things could get ugly this week between MLB and the MLBPA over negotiations between the two sides with regards to the 2020 season being played. While I don’t necessarily agree with the part of Passan’s article on his breakdown of the revenue – specifically the television contract numbers he brings up because there’s evidence he’s incorrect on the amounts – it’s a pretty thorough article on what’s to lose and gain for both sides. This part of the article was a strong point, too.

So are owners going to yield?

Well, most of them didn’t become billionaires by accident. Unless they have evolved overnight, they will push and cajole and hold out for the best deal, knowing that in the end, fans often side with teams over players. They can say that they’re losing money and want their workers’ salaries to reflect that, like it does in so many places across America, even if players already agreed in the March deal to a structure that will halve their salaries.

Then again, a truth underpins this entire negotiation: If ever there were a time for billionaire owners to do good — not in paying players, per se, but in avoiding the catastrophic fallout of baseball adding to a national unemployment rate approaching 15% — it’s now. And if ever there were a time for millionaire players to shed cynicism and adopt not a mien of war but one of mutually beneficial deal-making, it’s now.

 What players with health concerns are saying

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic spoke with several players who have underlying health conditions that put them at a higher risk of complications, or even death, if they were to contract COVID-19. It seems that the players are willing to play if the right measures are put in place. Here’s what Colorado Rockies outfielder David Dahl, who had his spleen removed in 2015, said:

“It’s definitely scary . . . my immune system is pretty bad,” Dahl says. “But I trust the medical experts, the guys with the Rockies, everyone who will be involved that if we do come back and play, we’ll be safe and taking the right precautions to make sure we aren’t at a greater risk.”

Other players that Rosenthal spoke to shared similar thoughts. Some of those players include Dodgers reliever Scott Alexander, Adam Duvall, Jordan Hicks, Carlos Carrasco, Kenley Jansen, Jon Lester, and Anthony Rizzo.

With that said, Andrew Miller is quoted within the article and is sure to note that the players association, as well as Major League Baseball, has the duty to be sure that the concerns for everyone is taken care of – not just the players, but the staff of everyone involved with the game, and their families.

The first day of negotiations

On Tuesday officials from Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association sat down, virtually, to discuss the plan that was sent over earlier today. Multiple reports (Joel Sherman of the New York Post, Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Evan Drellich of The Athletic) say that economics were not brought up as far as specifics go. Jon Heyman of MLB Network noted that the talks were about protocols, logistics, and testing.

26 Responses

  1. Pablo

    If the owners think the public will side with them in a battle against the players, they’re mistaken. With each of these back and forth articles, I get more convinced there won’t be a season this year.

    • JayTheRed

      I think I am beginning to feel that way too. It just doesn’t seem logical at this point to risk the lives of so many people to just play a game. Yes money is an issue for all parties but its not like they are going to run out of money this season.

  2. Rut

    This will be interesting in terms of how it plays out Union vs Individual wise.

    There will always be Sean Doolittles (and his political opposite), but this issue will never have unanimous agreement. Will the guys on the edges of argument lump in with the pack at the end, or will they demand their own opinion be heeded?

    Just not sure this will be something that guys can suck up… and if so, it certainly could create real competitive issues based on who will play and who will not.

    I think our outspoken guy, Bauer, is more likely to play than not…. hope for the Reds sake the rest are too.

  3. RedsFan11

    Both sides are being selfish. We all know owners are greedy, but upsetting to see players not understanding the situation. No one seems to consider average Joe who works at the grocery store 5 days a weeks for minimum wage coming into contact with thousands of people. Do they get tested every day? If they get sick you think they will be getting first class treatment and care? Other companies are asking people to take pay cuts, others are laying people off left and right. Players can voice health concerns all they want, in the end its always about the money.

    Cancel the Season.

    • Doug Gray

      I think your point should be more that the average Joe is getting royally screwed over more than the players not understanding the situation.

    • Doug Gray

      Also, the players have already taken a paycut from their negotiated salaries. They aren’t going to get a full years pay. They are going to be paid based on the days that they work. They have essentially gone from being salaried employees to hourly employees. And the owners agreed to that back in March. Now the owners are saying “haha, just kidding, we want you to change your pay again”.

      • Jim Walker

        A bit more than a third pay cut for a 100 game season and a tad more than a half for an 80 game season if players are paid prorated based on full salary. That actually sounds about even with the % of revenue loss being leaked to media by some MLB orgs

      • Doug Gray

        The words negotiate or negotiation are mentioned four times in this article. The word union is mentioned once. The words Players Association or MLBPA is mention five times in this article.

      • RedsFan11

        Understand what you are sayingDoug, but why do baseball players get to be exempt? The company I work for first started off by canceling everyone’s pay raise for 2020. Sucks but Crazy times I get it. Company then has to lay off 10% of employees. Dang this isn’t good but I put my head down go to work. Company now is going to lay off another 15% on top of 10. Are The leaders and owners of this company and thosunds of other companies in same situation getting heat for being greedy?

        I know there is no right answer and it’s hard to find anything to be positive about right now. I really want to go back and have people rip me for wanting to get Phillip Ervin more playing time. 🙂

      • Doug Gray

        I’ll go ahead and say that yes, a lot of leaders and owners of companies are absolutely being greedy and should be getting heat for what *some of them* are doing.

        Baseball players aren’t exempt, though. They’ve taken big pay cuts already. They’ve agreed to basically go from salaried employees to hourly employees, knowing full well that at best they’re going to get paid about 65% of what they were contractually agreed to be paid. But they, like the rest of us unfortunately, are going to feel this for the next decade to come because owners – and it’s already been explicitly stated by at least one of them – are going to take that money from them one way or the other (the quote was that the players can either take the loss now, or they can take it in free agency in the offseason).

  4. Tom Mitsoff

    There is a lot to lose for both the ownership side and the players side if the season is postponed because the two sides cannot agree on terms.

    Importantly, the nation’s sports fans (including myself) need some hope that sports (and life) can hopefully return to what we have known. If baseball owners and players say no to that simply because they can’t come to terms on who gets paid what, that’s a very, very bad precedent. If financial disputes alone are what keeps baseball from being played in 2020, then frankly, the sport deserves whatever fate comes its way.

    If they can’t play games because the health issues cannot be resolved, that is another matter altogether and completely understandable.

    If no games are played because the sides can’t agree on terms, then the owners don’t get their TV money from the networks (including their regional networks), and the players don’t get their salaries. Seems on the surface too much for both sides to lose for there not to be a compromise reached.

    • Jim Walker

      You’d think so. But when the owners say they’d be in a better position with no game related revenue than 60% of it, that feels to me like they’ve got cards they aren’t showing. What’s their definition of “losing money” really mean here?

  5. Scott C

    I have always thought that in baseball negations both sides are greedy. Owners rake in billions and players are overpaid to play a game I played for the pure joy of playing.
    In this case, I am totally on the side of the players, the owners look worse after every negotiations. After years of making money hand over fist and during a time when many a fan is out of work and not even getting a salary, it would not hurt the owners to make a little or even lose a little for one year. If not I can do without baseball for a year.

  6. Jim Walker

    I have wondered about this too. The obvious is players don’t want to be away from home even if not sequestered??
    Facilities are not as good at spring training as at MLB? (Cameras for replays have been mentioned in this context)
    At another level, maybe there would be lease issues and costs for some MLB orgs if they played elsewhere as a home field that would not exist if they don’t play?
    We really know so little about the financial intricacies

  7. TR

    Playing in 35,000 to 55,000 seat empty stadiums has never made much sense to me. if there is going to be a 2020 MLB season it better get going by July 1st., and the Arizona/Florida setup based on spring training sites makes more sense to me than games in ML cities. Labor negotiations are drawn out affairs and if compromise is not possible soon, I see no ML baseball in 2020, and with testing at present not available for all Americans, this situation could drag on into 2021.

    • Doug Gray

      Because the players do not want to live in hotels with their families for the next five months.

  8. Jim Walker

    It is the teams saying they are better off not playing than playing under conditions brought on by the pandemic, not the players.

    Teams drop 40% of their revenue (they claim) if they have no fans in the stands. Players drop just a tad more than 50% of their salary if they play an 80 game salary prorated based on full contract salary. That sounds pretty even to me. Let the teams go out and get loans if they have cash flow issues and that would finish evening the table based on %.

  9. Jim Walker

    5 MLB teams in California; and, it is looking like those stadium sites will not be available even for games with no fans in attendance. 2 more teams in NYC; and, it is hard to see how those sites would be available in the next 90 days too.

    Any plan to play in MLB home parks could be hanging by a thread.

    • Don

      Jim, I agree that NYC will not come out of “pause” per the governors opening metrics for at least a few more weeks or more. NYC is not a place anyone should travel into for any reason for a few more months. Broadway announced yesterday there will be no theaters opening until labor day at the earliest.

      I have a friend in Chicago that thinks he will be in lock down for a while as well, no clue if true or not, just his feeling and he is a huge Cubs fan so he wants to see baseball as well.

  10. Don

    Hoping the owners and players union can work out something which makes both sides feel like they are giving up way to much as that is probably a fair deal for both sides then.

    Both sides have to appear to be ready to walk away from the deal at any moment or the other side will take advantage of them.

    The public negotiations can make all sides look selfish and hurt the business of baseball. They both are positioning for best “public” opinion and leverage which makes fans feel used by both sides.

    • Jim Walker

      We agree on this Don. The 2 parties have a CBA in force. I bet that CBA includes at the least some guidelines for conflict resolution.

      This whole puzzle should have been worked out in private between the parties, possibly even including other stakeholders before any of it saw the light of public day.

      If they came to impasse announce that publicly then maybe go from there with mediation or arbitration (also behind closed doors till resolved).

    • Nick in NKY

      Agreed on this take. I was confident that there would be baseball in 2020 up until we started seeing negotiations play out in public before they’re settled in private. To me that is one or both sides signalling that they are attempting to win the public relations battle over blame for the coming failure to have a season at all.

      Now I’m not so sure.

  11. RedNat

    the owners have to know that if there is no mlb season this year and nba, nfl nhl, mls have a season then baseball absorbs a fatal blow. baseball can either be the savior or the goat of society . I hope they are willing to take a loss this year in order to make huge profits in 2021

  12. GR8TPNT

    Maybe this has been discussed but if so I missed and I would appreciate feedback. Obviously with reduced revenue how will free agency be affected for 2021? If owners cry wolf and then hand out millions, what happens to their credibility?

  13. Doug Gray

    Boras represents less than 10% of players in the MLBPA, and that’s the guys he’s talk to. I do think that for the most part he’s right, though – that most guys are willing to play because they feel it’s going to be safe enough because the teams are going to make sure they actually do what they can to keep it that way. But it’s not just all about the money for everyone. It’s a lot about the money for all of them. But there are absolutely guys that it’s a lot about non-money stuff, too. We just aren’t hearing as much about that because mostly both sides are in agreement on the safety side of things.

  14. Doc

    Many say owners have been making money hand over fist. Maybe they have; maybe they haven’t. Can someone reference the site where one goes to read the return on investment (ROI) for each baseball franchise for the past 20 years? I’d like to see the data that support the assertions. The only numbers I’ve seen were well before covid19 and by my simple calculation the ROI was 6% per year. That is not a particularly good ROI for industry.