I don’t have any data or historical anecdotes to back this up – how could I? – but I have a gut feeling that fighting publicly about the financial side of the game in this moment in time will serve absolutely no useful purpose. It will not help the players with leverage. It will not help the owners with leverage. It will serve only to remind quarantined, sick, and/or suffering fans that for all the PR-speak about “healing” and a “greater good,” there was no pandemic large enough to take the sport’s focus off of the almighty dollar.
None of that is to say that the sides should not negotiate following the league’s initial proposal, which is to be submitted to the players tomorrow. Of course they should negotiate, and of course that should include money considerations. These are complicated financial matters that could dramatically impact the lives of thousands. Each side will understandably aim to get the best deal it can, and I hope that the players are fairly compensated in a very unique and challenging situation.
Instead, I’m saying only: it serves absolutely nobody’s interest for the fighting to spill over into the public view right out of the gate.
… which, if today is any indication, is going to happen in full force this week. I mean, the proposal hasn’t even formally reached the players yet, and you have this:
MLB says it’s not a salary cap.— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) May 11, 2020
"We’re not trying to regulate payrolls, we’re not trying to set a precedent, none of the above.”
The MLBPA says it is. "A system that restricts player pay based on revenues is a salary cap, period.”
The financial battle will be a big one. Owners seek a revenue sharing plan. Players always have been opposed to such a plan and the union is saying no way will they agree to that. The good news: they have some time to figure it out, and both sides have big incentive to play.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) May 11, 2020
"That the league is trying to take advantage of a global health crisis to get what they’ve failed to achieve in the past — and to anonymously negotiate through the media for the last several days — suggests they know exactly how this will be received." – Tony Clark https://t.co/gXyL1fmTsj— Red Sox Stats (@redsoxstats) May 11, 2020
Scott Boras says the owners already made a deal, and they have to live with it. “We reached an agreement, and there will not be a renegotiation of that agreement.” https://t.co/b4lkeXZeiq— Stephanie Apstein (@stephapstein) May 11, 2020
Up front, I’ll note that I was circumspect about a revenue-sharing system from the get-go, so I do understand the players’ beef. For a whole host of reasons I discussed previously, sharing revenue (loss) this year equally does not seem fair to the players.
But what I don’t understand is why they’ve run to the media to spread that beef publicly before they’ve even received the proposal. Again, it’s just my gut, but I don’t see how this actually helps the players get what they want (an extremely safe plan, and one that gets them prorated salaries). Instead, it will just make them into “the group that is refusing to return to baseball because they aren’t getting enough money.” I don’t believe that angle myself, but I’ve done this long enough to know that’s how 75% of fandom responds whenever the public comment on money comes from the player side.
Again, players have the right – and their representatives have a duty – to seek as much compensation for playing this year as they can. I just think griping about the proposal publicly, immediately, will not help the players get where they need to be. And if it doesn’t, and if it just engenders more anger, then it also don’t help the sport as a whole, either. It just causes more problems. And don’t even get me started on what happens if money – rather than the virus – winds up the reason this season is cancelled.
In any case, this is just the opening of this process. Let’s see where we are after the players get a better sense of what revenue-sharing would look like (I’ll admit, there could be some under-the-hood particulars that make it look a lot better for the players than we can see right now as outsiders). And let’s hope there isn’t an escalation of argumentation in the public sphere.
For what it’s worth, I wish the response from the players – and then lobbed back thoughtfully from the owners – looked a lot more like what Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle put out today:
Because this is a novel virus, there is still so much we don't know – including the long-term effects. On top of respiratory issues, there's been evidence of kidney, intestinal, and liver damage, as well as neurological malfunctions, blood clots & strokes. https://t.co/rXD3vJRpoH— Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) May 11, 2020
Research has shown Covid-19 may cause issues with male hormone ratios – even in younger men, which could lead to fertility complications. Not ideal. Extremely suboptimal. Zero stars. https://t.co/M7JknHBmdM— Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) May 11, 2020
And we've learned that you release the most virus into your environment prior to symptoms even showing. So how frequently will we be testing to stay ahead of a potential spread and to mitigate as much risk as possible? https://t.co/ITimbAdfvl— Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) May 11, 2020
So how many tests do we need to safely play during a pandemic? And not just tests for players. Baseball requires a massive workforce besides the players; coaches, clubhouse staff, security, grounds crews, umpires, gameday stadium staff, TV & media…we need to protect everyone.— Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) May 11, 2020
We need to consider what level of risk we're willing to assume. 80% of cases are considered mild, but what if a player, a staff member, an auxiliary worker, or a family member gets a case that's in the 20% and they develop severe symptoms or chronic issues? 1 feels like too many?— Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) May 11, 2020
And if even mild cases can cause long-term health effects, will there be added healthcare benefits for players, staff and workers that will extend beyond their employment and into retirement to mitigate the unknown risks of putting on a baseball season during a pandemic?— Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) May 11, 2020
Hopefully these concerns will be addressed in MLB's proposal, first and foremost: 1) what's the plan to ethically acquire enough tests? 2) what's the protocol if a player, staff member, or worker contracts the virus? We want to play. And we want everyone to stay safe.— Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) May 11, 2020