Tuesday afternoon, the owners finally proposed a financial package to the players’ union. In an unexpected move (and by unexpected, I mean completely expected), the players swatted it away like cats with a glass of water on the edge of a counter.
What the owners proposed was actually something that I’ve said on some of the podcasts, basically that the highest level people take the brunt of the cuts.
— Jason Collette (@jasoncollette) May 26, 2020
This might have been possible had the players suggested it and it wasn’t quite so draconian. When you are asking a guy expecting $35 million to play for $7, that’s a bit of a tough pill to swallow, especially when he’s already agreed to play for $17.5. Most folks looked at this as trying to split the union, get the young and cheap guys pitted against the established vets. I’m sure that was a nice benefit for the owners, but they were targeting the vets for the same reason Willie Sutton robbed banks–because that’s where the money is. Better to pay young guys 90% of the half they were supposed to get and bigger guys 50% than to cut everyone by 65% or so.
The problem is, of course, that the players have already taken a haircut and they aren’t real excited about doing more just to make sure the owners are able to be in the black. I’m sure they’ve argued that if Miami or Pittsburgh or someone else is really going to be hurt by this, teams like New York and Boston can help them out. After all, aren’t the two sides supposed to be looking out for their members? Aren’t we all in this together?
What’s also interesting is that, at least publicly, the players also say that they are far apart on the health and safety protocols. I’m not really sure what the issues would be there, though that does help them save some face should the whole thing blow up over money. Not to say that the players are wrong, but it’s an easier (easier, not easy, especially since health and safety is now some sort of political issue in everyday life) sell to the fans if they aren’t playing because they aren’t confident they’ll be safe.
Again, if owners shared in the bounty over the last few years, when they sold BAMTech and had huge TV contracts that brought them to a reported $1 billion profit last year, maybe the players would be more willing to make things work. Instead, when all of this money was flowing in, we saw two ice-cold free agent markets. We’ve seen teams tank to get draft picks and, by the by, save quite a bit of cash. We’ve seen service time manipulation and a lack of minor league pay. The years of a detente between the two sides, where there was a bit of trust and at least the idea of working toward the same ends, seems to be over. As Jeff Jones put out on Twitter a long time ago, there’s only one or two owners that were in the league during the 1994 strike. That institutional memory is going to be very watered down.
Obviously the players weren’t going to just accept whatever the owners sent their way. Some of this may be trying to negotiate through the press. However, if there was some common ground, you’d think the two sides would say so. Something of “we’re not there, but we can work with what they gave us” or “it’s a good first step but there’s a lot of work to be done.” Instead, it’s been outright rejection, though we do have an idea what they are thinking.
Honestly, this makes a ton of sense and is a pretty strong gesture on the players’ part. The owners will likely be back up and running, catching up on the 2020 losses. This way they don’t have to pay out so much now but the players still get their money (and, I’m guessing, perhaps a little interest). If the owners aren’t willing to do this, then you wonder how willing they are to have a season anyway.
And so we wait. And more days come off the calendar, speeding up this roller coaster to its end. Whether it’s a smooth ending that gets a new season kicked off or a violent crash that ends hopes for 2020 remains to be seen.