MLB rejected the union’s proposal for a 114-game season and said it would not send a counter, sources tell The Athletic. The league said it has started talks with owners about playing a shorter season without fans, and that it is ready to discuss additional ideas with the union.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) June 3, 2020
Far be it for any sort of rational discussion and compromise to take place in the world of baseball negotiations.
Negotiations are supposed to work somewhat in the manner we’ve seen. One side proposes basically everything they want and the other side rejects. The other side does the same and the first side rejects. The first side then gives up a few things, the other side gives up a few things, and then the ball gets rolling. Except here, it seems, the owners have decided once was enough. If you don’t care for our terms, too bad for you.
The March agreement did give the power of the schedule to ownership, allowing them to determine how the season would go. My guess is that the players expected the owners to want to play as much as they can and they were giving up the right to argue about playing in October, playing the playoffs at neutral sites, etc. I feel like if they thought the owners would have shortened the season so drastically so as not to have to pay them less than a 1/3 of their salary, they might have been a little less willing to allow for that possibility.
By my rough math, any arbitration-eligible player or veteran free agent with a full-season salary of $940,000 or less has already received an advance equal to or more than their pro-rated salary over 50 games.
— Craig Edwards (@craigjedwards) June 3, 2020
The owners, of course, advanced the players $130 million of their salaries. If Craig is right, and there’s no reason he wouldn’t be, the owners wouldn’t be out a lot more money with a schedule like this. Which is the point, of course, and probably why they are looking at 50 games. You can make the case that they are trying to get everything in before a second wave comes along, but we just saw the NBA announce their plan (which should become official today) to run from July 31 to October 12. If baseball does just 50 games and starts at the beginning of July, they might actually get their whole season and playoffs done before the NBA finishes.
Which is slightly absurd. Even if you are focused on trying to get the games in before November because of health reasons (which I would bet is only about 5-10% of the reasoning here), the players were open to increased doubleheaders. If you could play eight games a week (probably two doubleheaders and an off day), you could get in 64 games by the end of August. Get in four in the partial week (July 1 is on a Wednesday) and you are at 68. So all you would have to do is go to mid-September to get in 82. Start the playoffs then and it’s two weeks earlier start to the postseason. Granted, that might run a little longer now since you want to expand them. Maybe you go best of five for all series, though. I’m not enamored with the idea but I’d rather see that than less than a 1/3 of a regular season.
The league is supposed to make its “best efforts” to play as many games as possible. If they try to run this shortened season through, there well may be a grievance filed by the players. Which, basically, would end the 2020 season before it started. Just what baseball would need.
Let’s say, though, that the owners are able to not only get the 50-game schedule implemented but that the players actually play it. You could probably put money on the fact that a work stoppage would be coming and possibly sooner rather than later. The current collective bargaining agreement is set to expire after next season. Could we see a strike early in 2021 if this went through? It feels like we’ve got a good chance of seeing one anyway, given the animosity between the two sides. I don’t think the players wait until the contract expires because they lose a lot of leverage. Might we not see 162 games total over this year and next? It would seem very sadly possible.
While both sides bear some blame here, let’s be frank: if the owners were losing as much money as they say they are, they’d be pretty open to proving it. Are they hurting? Sure. Is this going to be a lost year for them? Yeah. Will they hunker down and stop spending in the free agent market? Probably so. Do they have financing options that can help? You betcha. Have they banded together to help the owners hurting the most? Not that we’ve seen, not like the major league players that have done their best to help out those minor leaguers that are suffering. While Tom Ricketts may want to tell you that every bit of money they have goes into the team, that’s pretty iffy at best. There is no way that baseball teams are spending every bit of their profits on the team, not when the free agent market has been so slow as of late.
Again on Ricketts’ 70% of revenue from stadium claim:
Cubs got around $170 M from local and national TV deals in 2019. That means total revenue is roughly $566 M, about $100 M higher than Forbes estimates, and they already had the Cubs with $68 M in profit. Claim doesn’t add up
— Craig Edwards (@craigjedwards) June 3, 2020
Look, these guys didn’t get rich by spending money unnecessarily and it would surely help to push off some of their expenses. However, without hard and fast data, without being able to tell that a team may be losing money on paper but making it when you factor out stadium depreciation and the like, without knowing if their TV rights were actually at market value, it’s really hard to believe that things are as bad as they tend to say they are.
So what would you rather see? A short 2020 season with a strike likely in 2021 or a wiped out 2020 and some sort of agreement for ’21? Let me know on Twitter!