The coronavirus pandemic has hit every industry, business and individual hard. There is no denying the economical and emotional impact it has had on the world. Major League Baseball is no different.
With the outbreak coming just 2 weeks before opening day, MLB was hit like no other sport. The league had yet to produce revenue, resulting in no income. Owners, who are used to bringing in billions of dollars in revenue annually, are left panicking. Not too sure why they hit the panic button considering they are all sitting upon billions in their bank account, but they did.
Nonetheless, the stoppage of play and revenue caused a trickle down effect that has hit the players too. Players have yet to receive a game check, something they all have made sure was known by the public. While it has impacted players differently, particularly the minor league players who are being cut to save finances, it has become the lone talking point between the owners and players association.
While leagues like the NBA and NHL have found the blueprint to resume play once safe, the owners and MLBPA have been stuck on stupid trying to nickel and dime each other. To give a quick summary, the owners want the players to take a pay cut due to the circumstances. The players, who have already agreed to taking a prorated salary, think it is absurd to ask them to take a pay cut.
The owners proposed a sliding salary scale in which the richest players would take the biggest pay cuts. In this scenario guys like Mike Trout who normally make $36 million, would take a massive pay cut to about $9 million. Even with the majority of the players in the lower pay range, the MLBPA turned down that proposal rather swiftly.
The other tactic the owners have used is using the players agreement to accept a prorated salary against them. The owners have proposed a 80 game regular season, which would cut the money owed to players in half of what they would usually receive. As expected the players countered the amount of games.
The MLBPA proposed a 114 game season to the owners, a number of games that would for sure be hard to pull off in just 4 months. The owners turned down the proposal and offered no counter. Owners have gone as far to threaten just a 50 game schedule. That is where the negotiations begin to get brutal.
Players want to play as many games possible to ensure they get most of their salary. The owners have looked at it in a different scope. The less games that are played, the less money comes out of their pockets. Plus without the fans revenue, the owners would be losing money if games are played at all.
In the end, expect the owners to stand firm on a 60-80 games proposal, while the players fight for closer to 100 games. My money would be it lands about the 80 game mark.
But the sport will take a bigger hit, beyond the millionaires and billionaires arguing over millions of dollars.
The true black eye the sport will take from all this? The way teams are trying to save pennies on the dollar. We have seen teams, big market teams I might add, like the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Yankees, deciding to take shortcuts to save money. They have treated their minor league players like garbage, flat out cut the less important front office people, and cut expenses that go to their facilities.
After the Los Angeles Dodgers announced they would cut their minor league players, veteran Starting Pitcher David Price, who hasn’t yet played for the team, announced that he would pay every minor leaguer $1,000 each month until the end of August. While extraordinarily kind, why has it become the plight of the millionaire players to pay the billionaire owners expenses? I don’t think the MLB gets up from that easily, both fans and players will remember that.
Another thing that we can’t lose sight of, despite MLB doing so, is the importance of keeping their dwindling fanbase interested in the sport. For about decades MLB has had an issue attracting a younger audience. Could you think of a better opportunity to attract new fans than this?
They could tap into a whole new demographic due to the circumstances COVID-19 has presented. The entire world is craving live sports and entertainment. The MLB is missing its best opportunity maybe ever to save its dying sport, but they can’t see the big picture.
Rather than save the sport, they are stuck arguing over a ZOOM call about money, service time, and miss judging the times we are living in.
The sport comes off as tone deaf to its fanbase that has been out of work and can’t pay their rent or put food on the table. At the height of a modern day civil rights movement, MLB teams have mostly stayed quiet and out of sight, rather than showing they stand with the African American community, one they wish they could attract to play their sport.
If the league continues to argue over current money, they will certainly lose out on billions that could be had in the future. The popularity of the sports will continue to be in decline. There is a chance that no season will take place if the owners and players can’t get their act together.