The MLB and the MLBPA seem to be at irreparable odds. Neither side is willing to flinch on negotiations for the 2020 season.
Is this getting old to any of you? Is this getting frustrating? For some of us rational people, the path forward to a jovial St. Louis Cardinals season is clear. For the people actually involved though, there are clearly outside motivations that are getting in the way of bringing fans back the sport they love. It’s hurting the sport each day a deal isn’t found.
It comes down to greed and hard-headed billionaires arguing with millionaires about an amount of money that is chump change in the grand scheme of the balance sheets of the entire business.
The biggest week in professional baseball yielded no compromise.
Owners are unwilling to budge from their numbers, players unwilling to concede more than they’ve already given up. Fans being hurt no matter what. Let’s dig in.
Owners have come out and announced that (by their numbers), they will lose $640k per game as a sport. By MLB’s proposals, we know that the most games they are willing to play while paying players full pro-rata salaries is right around 48 games. That option is the nuclear one that involves imposing that season on the players.
If you’re on the owner’s side still, let me lay out a short analogy. Imagine you work at Six Flags during the summer as a lifeguard. You just work during the summer, and you make $10 an hour. It’s more than some other people, but you work a job that brings in a lot of money for the park.
At the beginning of the summer, an unprecedentedly bad locust season forces the park to close. The owners of the park are nice, so they give the lifeguards a chunk of money as emergency pay to keep them paid for a while until the park reopens.
When the park finally does reopen though, the park owners say they are only willing to pay you $3 because of the time missed and what that did to the park’s finances. How do you think you’d feel? Would you be happy?
This imperfect metaphor is a dumbed-down version of what the players are currently going through. All the players want is to be paid for the games they play at the rate of pay that the signed a contract to be paid at.
To this, the owners said “fine, we’ll give you full per-game salary, but over 48 games.”
So how far off are the two sides?
You’ll be frustrated to hear how little it is. In this story by Jeff Passan, he does a bunch of great math to estimate how close the sides are.
Going back to that $640k loss per game the owners are claiming, that would total $460,800,000 over the 720 total games (48 x 15). league-wide, that’s just $15,360,000 per team.
The MLBPA’s 114-game season proposal was not supposed to be a deal the owners expected. It’s an anchoring attempt to reach a very clear middle ground here of 82 games. If the season was 82 games at full prorated salaries, the total loss would be $787,200,000.
$326,400,000 is all the money that is being fought over right now. For a sport that drew in $10.7B in 2019, so much fuss over this little money is a downright joke.
It just seems that the way through this is so easy. So clear.
If the owners are forced to use Manfred to impose a 48-game season, this will just be the beginning of an impending war that will overshadow anything that happens on the field in the next couple of years. The current CBA ends after the 2021 season and with these negotiations as a starter, a new CBA will not be easy to negotiate.
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Neither side realizes that this has to be something they work on together. Looking to the NBA, and the NHL, they already have deals done to return to play in 2020. Why did they find these deals so quietly and easily? They were working together, sharing profits for years, now shouldering the economic downturn together.
The owners will do anything to keep their books closed and to continue to keep their profits to themselves. At the base of it, that is the issue.
The fallout from this year’s abnormalities will be felt in free agency after the 2020 season, in ticket prices, in ballpark food prices, and most importantly, in the CBA negotiations next winter.
The MLB missed a huge opportunity to better the sport and instead couldn’t get out of their own way.
Don’t get it wrong, this is on the owners through and through. The players have no reason to care or accept responsibility for the owners losing money.
If a July 4 start for the regular season is truly off the table and the most likely season length is 50 games, I have a slight conspiracy theory.
I think the owners are trying to push back the date the deal is made as long as possible so that they don’t start the season July 4 and play 50 games over three whole months. If that happens it’ll be clear that more games were possible and the reason fans were deprived was money.
If they don’t agree till later and the season starts in August, 50 games between two months will be relatively normal. That way they can push the blame for a ridiculously short season back on the players for being “unruly negotiators.”
This article was not a fun one to write at all. There is a lot going wrong in the world right now, and baseball is just a small part of it. It seems things will get worse before they get better for baseball and at the end of the day, the sport and the fans are the ones that will be hurt by it. Don’t be fooled into thinking one year of losses will destroy the owners.