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The long and short of where we are with MLB’s return is that the owners presented a proposal where rank and file players would have modest cuts on their prorated salaries while stars would bear the burden of cuts greater than 50 percent of their prorated pay and approaching 80 percent on their original compensation (details here). This was not received well by the union, which essentially plans to tell the owners to jump in a lake of raw sewage and present the counter-proposal Michael Corleone once gave to a crooked Nevada senator: “Our offer is nothing.” (Details here).
It’s getting really hard to take. We kept hearing about big optimism for MLB’s return and crickets from the other leagues. Now the NHL and NBA are both way further along in their return plans as baseball’s millionaires and billionaires squabble about money. To some extent it’s understandable that they have to figure out how to divide this diminished pie and that there would be acrimony in doing so because the sides have had a strained relationship for over 50 years.
But can’t they at least have the decency to keep these squabbles to themselves?
This is a PR battle where both sides are shooting themselves in the face. Rob Manfred, MLBPA chief Tony Clark, and their legal teams should lock themselves in a room and figure this out. Throw your phones in a river to avoid the temptation of calling the media every time something happens that you don’t like. Eventually, the incentives have to be aligned. Players have short earning windows and even at the minimum level make much more than nearly all Americans, to say nothing of the tens of millions who are unemployed due to the pandemic.
It defies logic that the owners would lose money by staging the games. But even if they do those losses would pale in comparison to what they’d lose in the long run from public rancor if they don’t figure this out right now.
MLB’s strategy with their latest offer in some regard was to divide and conquer the rank and file from the stars, as Roger Goodell succeeded in doing in the NFL’s recent labor negotiations where a smidge over 50 percent voted to approve the new collective bargaining agreement. There was vocal opposition from stars like Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, and JJ Watt. This strategy doesn’t seem to have worked from MLB, as the extent of pay cuts to stars were so overtly disrespectful that it apparently galvanized just about everyone from the players’ side in opposition.
Outkick’s editor Clay Travis has vowed not to spend any money with MLB for five years if they can’t figure this out. I’m not going to make a similar promise because I know I’d break it the moment games return. I go to 10+ games a year, subscribe to MLB Extra Innings, and watch or listen to a vast majority of Brewers games. Nonetheless, the fortunes of these franchises will rise and fall not with the die hards, but on the margins, and if MLB can’t figure this out in the next week or two they will deservedly be a statue smattered with bird poop.