Owners Trying to Buttress a Threat to Cancel Season

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Owners Trying to Buttress a Threat to Cancel Season

Chicago Cubs

Where things stand, where they need to go, and where the owners are taking us all.

I could only speculate as I was writing it up last night, but in the interim it has become more or less accepted as fact: although the owners hold the right to mandate whatever season they want, they are now threatening that they won’t do it specifically because the players may file a grievance as soon as the owners mandate a season. A grievance that the players have the right to file, believing that the owners have not negotiated in good faith. A situation to which the owners respond, “If you threaten to question our good faith, we will cancel the season.” How, exactly, is that supposed to not further prove the players’ point?

Worse, how is it supposed to entice the players to start negotiating again? Which is exactly what needs to happen.

The owners reportedly (LA Times) are taking the tack that there are only three routes now: either (1) the players can sign the waiver of legal rights to file a grievance (at which point the owners declare a 50-ish game season), (2) the players can submit to arbitration on the questions about the March 26 agreement (an arbitration that absolutely no one can say for certain won’t take months and just turn into the grievance anyway while also cancelling the season), or (3) the players can return to the negotiating table (where there haven’t actually been negotiations yet – just pissy letters back and forth).

Pretty obvious and easy next step here – one that should have been taken a month ago – is for the owners to make the players an offer that includes prorated pay. Even if it starts at a small number of games. You just have to start on that basis. Everyone everywhere who isn’t at the leadership level in MLB can see that’s what needs to happen. And yet. And yet.

What I’ll keep coming back to are the following reported, and not-yet-disputed, facts:

⇒ Based on the league’s last offer, as compared to fully-prorating, say, 69 games, the extra cost to each team would be under $7 million.

⇒ The league has indicated its owners can “easily” finance the costs of this season at “minuscule” interest rates.

So, then. The extra cost is relatively small. The money to cover it can be easily borrowed at almost no real cost. But it isn’t happening. Doesn’t that tell you everything you need to know about how the owners are actually viewing this fight? It strongly implies that (1) they believe “winning” is going to be more valuable in the long-term than just playing ball, and (2) they believe they are entitled not to “lose” any more money than they have to in the short-term, even where it can be covered easily by cheap loans.

If one side has completely lost my “good faith” in this situation, it isn’t the players.

As for the health and safety component, no one should downplay that seriousness of getting those protocols right. But likewise, no one should naively assume that even those are totally unrelated to the money question. Part of the reason people are willing to take calculated risks for their job – whether it’s contracting a serious virus or taking a fastball to the dome – is because they get paid what they deem a sufficient amount of money to do it.

So if the owners have – in the players’ view – just screwed things up in such a way that the players are going to receive an ever-decreasing fraction of their pay, why would anyone expect the players not to squeeze as hard as possible for the most over-protective protocols they can possibly get? If you paid me a billion dollars to go jump in raw sewage, I’ll do it without blinking. If you’re only going to pay me $50, I’ll probably ask to wear goggles.

Lastly, I hope no one was surprised by the timing of this reveal last night, just after MLB starts to threaten no season if the players don’t do X, Y, and Z:

It would be MORE bizarre if none of the thousands of players and staff had tested positive for COVID-19 over the past few months. This is kind of a nothing statement, that, if you’re cynical enough, appears designed solely to suggest that the owners have a non-monetary reason for delaying and threatening. Everyone wants the protocols to make the game as safe as it reasonably can, but no one expects the entire sport to somehow be magically immune to the virus. Letting this information out now, given the timing, is really dubious (hence, I suspect, Anthony Rizzo’s tweet on the subject last night).

The clock continues to tick. The sadness continues to grow. The intransigence of the ownership group continues to scuttle any serious efforts to put a deal together.

I’ll leave you with this sobering reminder from Ken Rosenthal’s and Evan Drellich’s latest on the situation:

Manfred needs 75 percent of the owners, or 23, to move forward with a schedule of his choosing. Whether he has that support at present is unclear.

“There are definitely more than eight owners who don’t want to play,” one player agent said.


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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.