If the MLBPA and MLB owners can’t come to an agreement, the players will take the wrath. This isn’t about who is right or wrong.
Both sides are at fault if baseball is canceled. However, the public will lash out at the players and not the owners.
Labor relations are not uncommon in any sport. All sports go through lockouts and shutdowns over labor agreements. The MLBPA is the strongest labor union in the United States and possibly the world. MLB owners have wanted some sort of salary cap for years. It shut down baseball in 1994 to the point of no World Series or playoffs. Players took the blame even though the owners were trying to cap their salaries.
The owners eventually caved because no baseball also meant no revenue. But baseball suffered. Fans lashed out at the players and attendance suffered. It wasn’t until the Cal Ripken Jr all-time streak that fans started to get interested again. The steroid era helped bring it back in the late 90″s, with the home run chase of Sammy Sosa and Mark Maguire. However, baseball fell behind the NFL as the most popular sport and never really recovered.
Now the Coronavirus has thrown a wrench into things. Baseball suspended operations a few weeks before the season was supposed to start. Things are starting to look good again.
The KBO and NPB have both started their seasons back up. Japan will start playing June 16th, while Korea is close to 20 games in. The MLB should be gearing up now to start again. However, the two sides can’t come to an agreement on terms of the season.
Initially, the owners asked the players to play for their pro-rated salaries per game if the season was shortened. The players agreed and the waiting began. What was thought to be a few weeks has turned into a couple of months and probably only 81 games. But the fans will not be present at the start of the season. Gameday revenue is 40 to 50% of the owners’ capital to use on players’ salaries, expenses, etc.
The owners proposed a new deal. They asked the players to share the burden by guaranteeing 50% of their prorated amount while splitting revenue for the other half. With no fans, the owners would only be getting TV revenue. But when the fans come back, there is a lot more money to be made. The players would be taking the bigger risk in that scenario. Their reluctance is understandable since they are the ones who are risking their health.
If the season is suspended over money, the fans may not see the players’ point of view. Especially since a lot of them are out of work or taking pay cuts to keep a job. If 1994 is an indication of how the fans will react, its the players who would shoulder the blame. Baseball may not survive another shutdown over money. The players could also lose the fans which would give ownership even more power. This leaves the players in a strange situation.
The current labor agreement expires after the 2021 season. If the 2020 season isn’t played over money, the fans may lose interest. Two groups of rich people arguing over money doesn’t sit well with fans. Especially in a time our country is suffering and could use something to cheer for. If the players were to concede some salary in a pandemic, they may have some credibility going into negotiations over a new deal. They make a sacrifice in a time when the country needs it, and a salary cap should be off the table by the owners in negations. In fact, the owners should agree to that now.
America needs baseball. Not just for the fans of baseball. If baseball is played then football, basketball, and every other sport can get ramped up to get going again. Both the owners and players need to get a deal done. If it doesn’t, the players will get no sympathy. Even if they are not to blame, they will get no sympathy. Fans don’t want to hear about how you aren’t getting paid as much. Owners will get a pass even if they share the blame.
Sports fans see the players on the field and not the owners in their suites. They live and die with their favorite players and not the ownership. So unless a deal gets done, the players will be blamed for no baseball in 2020.
Hey here’s a plan, let’s not let it get to that. Players should agree to a revenue-sharing proposition in exchange for a salary cap being left off the next CBA.
There – that was simple, wasn’t it?
Featured Image: Charles Rex Arbogast