The MLBPA and MLB owners are now into what feels like the middle of a 100-year long war. The conflict driven by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic and more-so by league-wide owner stubbornness and greed. After commissioner Rob Manfred seemingly went back on his initial promise that baseball would be played in 2020, negotiations appear to be at a standstill. Even if the players do step on the field for the 2020 season at this point, there will still be feelings of ill will and bitterness from both sides.
How did we get here? The negotiations began initially before May 20th, which was the first concrete proposal date from Major League Baseball. The key note here was in the money the owners stood to lose. Their largest arguing point was that they’d lose roughly $4 billion without the players agreeing to knock more off of the previously agreed upon prorated salaries.
Here is where the problem lies in all these negotiations: The owners are trying to take more out of the pockets of the players. The same owners who agreed to eliminate over 40 minor league teams and reduce the draft to five rounds to, you guessed it, save money. St. Louis Cardinals owner Bill Dewitt Jr. said that the baseball industry “isn’t very profitable”. These owners own teams in a league where the most recent sale of a small market team in the Kansas City Royals was over $1 billion. These same small market Royals are still able to shell out a five-year, $70 million contract to Ian Kennedy.
Major League Baseball is not hurting for money. In 2019, the MLB posted a revenue of $10.7 billion. Player salaries hovered around $4 billion. The KBO is currently having what will amount to a full season, with no fans in attendance and paying every last one of their players their full salary. The MLB players already agreed that they would be willing to have their salaries be prorated so that they would only get paid for the amount of games they played. However, owners keep moving the goalposts. It feels like this will only continue to go along with everything else.
Agent Joel Wolfe on @MLB owners crying poverty:
“The Marlins played without fans for 15 years, yet still managed to give a player the biggest contract in sports history (Stanton), and then sold the team for a Billion dollar profit, with five competing buyers.”
— Patrick Saunders (@psaundersdp) June 15, 2020
Manfred recently described the optics of this whole situation as “just a disaster for the game”. Major League Baseball blew an incredible opportunity to grow the game as they often say they want to do. The most recent viewership age demographic statistics place the average MLB viewer at 57-years old. A concoction of reasons is to blame for younger viewers’ apathy towards “America’s pastime”. This includes shorter attention spans and failing to market their players.
With no American sports taking place near the season’s initial start time, the two sides could have quickly reached an agreement and taken center stage in the United States as the sport to watch. The owners instead worried about reaching their hands into the player’s pockets.
Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark today released the following statement: pic.twitter.com/ibyOqB93WC
— MLBPA Communications (@MLBPA_News) June 15, 2020
The MLB owners have now chosen instead of trying to salvage negotiations and ultimately the season, to accuse the MLBPA of negotiating in “bad faith”. In reality, it has been the owners and MLB negotiating in bad faith, repackaging the same offer over and over again and constantly leaking details to the press.
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer has even accused the MLB owners and Manfred of using stalling tactics to attempt to enforce a 50-game schedule when the calendar would easily allow over 70 games. People have been quick to make the “billionaires arguing with millionaires” argument, but it seems that only one side in all of this is really trying to give fans the best season possible.
best of luck to everyone’s kbo team this year https://t.co/kXGfKgZLIb
— Baseball Brit (@BaseballBrit) June 15, 2020