The challenging needle to thread: on the one hand, I absolutely have to cover the stuff that comes out about the negotiations on a return to play. It’s literally the most important bit of news within our purview right now. On the other hand, I’m going to continue to be honest about my position that public fighting (which, outside of direct statements, means the kinds of reports I’m going to be sharing and discussing here) does nothing good for the players, nothing good for the teams, nothing good for the sport, and nothing good for the fans. So I have to figure out a way to share this stuff without being part of a media process that risks actively harming the negotiations that I hope are otherwise going on privately and thoughtfully.
Maybe there’s no way to do it, and I’m just trying to have my cake and eat it to by writing this very intro. But I’m just trying to shoot straight with readers, who are fans, and who are the group I primarily care about. Fans don’t want to see the league and the players fighting about money at a time like this. They just don’t. So I feel like I’m doing our readers a disservice by covering this shit. And yet I feel it would be an even greater disservice NOT to cover it.
I guess the best I can do is say, sorry, I know that for most of you this is like fingernails on a chalkboard, but it’s the news.
As we heard yesterday – and in the days leading up to yesterday, since the public discussions kicked off long before the owners actually finalized their proposal for a return to baseball – the players are flat-out not on board with a revenue-sharing plan, which was included in the current proposal. And until and unless we learn more information that totally changes the calculus, I agree with them.
You can easily find beefing out there, primarily from agents, if you would like to seek it out. For me, for now, I’m just gonna say, again, it’s clear the players are not on board with a revenue share plan.
So if the financial part of the proposal, which hits the players today, is DOA, what happens next?
Well, from where Jeff Passan sits, it’ll be each side planting their feet firmly in the ground for a while, before finally starting a real negotiation. Passan discusses that, as well as taking a very comprehensive look at where each side stands this week:
This week will get ugly for baseball — and it'll be easy to get pessimistic. Don't. As MLB and the union meet this afternoon, both sides have too much to lose to allow money to blow up the sport's return.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 12, 2020
20 Questions on MLB's return-to-play proposal: https://t.co/TB9DsR8i9J
The focus in the near term needs to be on the health and safety of the players, not only because that’s the easiest “sell” to fans, but also because it really is the most important part of this entire process!
You’ve got to be able to answer, confidently, how much risk is involved for the players and other personnel, and how you, as a league, are going to mitigate that risk. Once you get on the same page on that front, then you can turn more aggressively to the financial issues, which will ultimately be incredibly complicated when you consider the range of players involved, the need to audit books, and the implications for the league’s finances beyond this year. Whatever the sides decide this year, for example, will absolutely have a huge impact on free agency and arbitration (either explicitly, or by a ripple effect).
A reminder, though: the financial negotiations are not entirely a separate item from the health negotiations. Since we know that returning at any point this summer or fall will include an added risk that is not present in “normal” times, the league cannot promise 100% perfect player safety. No one can. Thus, the league can only do the best it reasonably can *while also* properly compensating the players for the risks they are taking on. Players, on the whole, may be willing to assume more or less risk depending on what it provides them and their families. Yes, health and safety concerns are paramount, but they are also viewable through the same lens we make all decisions about our jobs: is it financially worth it for me to do this thing when I consider all the inputs? The particular challenge here is that different players likely have very different perspectives on that question, and yet they’re being asked to make a decision as one group. And although that’s part of being in a union, this feels a little different than financially “valuing” the risks always associated with baseball (the risk of an errant pitch, or a broken ankle, or whatever).
To that end, another great thread from Sean Doolittle:
Some people telling me to stay home if I don't want to play. We're asking these questions BECAUSE we want to play. We want to restart the season again. We also want everyone it would require to resume a baseball season to be as safe as possible. https://t.co/bvUPVspYjZ— Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) May 12, 2020
It's why we have a responsibility to do this ethically. Can we ensure that we will not be diverting resources (tests, PPE, etc.) from people and communities and more essential workers? What if a player sustains an injury and needs surgery? How will that work?— Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) May 12, 2020
It feels like the conversation about an MLB restart has shifted to the economic issues and that's really frustrating. Until there's a vaccine, let's focus on keeping everyone as safe as possible & minimizing the risks so we can play baseball again. https://t.co/AzHTmFZhZ4— Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) May 12, 2020
A final, related thought from me on a critical part of this conversation that I’m simply not seeing covered anywhere at all in the media:
You can't do sports without massive, widely-available testing. We aren't there right now. Everyone making this point is 100% correct.— Brett Taylor (@Brett_A_Taylor) May 12, 2020
But no one seems to be making the next point about testing ramp-up.
Mon, Apr 27: 189K tests.
Mon, May 11: 395K tests.https://t.co/BziFpGHBMv
Seems like all of this should be part of the discussion about sports resuming training in four weeks, and resuming seasons in two months. What are the testing level projections for that period of time? How about PPE production and distribution? Is there a crapload on the way?— Brett Taylor (@Brett_A_Taylor) May 12, 2020
If reality is that we're about to max out testing capacity or production imminently, that's a critical problem. If reality is that a lot of mechanisms are being projected to come online next month, that's a critical component of any plan.— Brett Taylor (@Brett_A_Taylor) May 12, 2020
Either way, it's critical. But silent.