I don’t have a lot of faith that Major League Baseball and its players are going to come to a resolution to restart the season. Health concerns have taken a back seat to economic disagreements between league owners and the MLBPA and I am even starting to wonder if negotiations, which seem to grow more acrimonious by the day, could spill over into next season, causing a strike or lockout.
Even if the owners were to open their books — a highly unlikely prospect — they might say, "Here's what the baseball team makes. That's your business. My adjacent real estate development? That's not." And that can't be resolved in a week.
— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) May 28, 2020
I also understand that some fans find it difficult to empathize with either side, given the exorbitant salaries players receive vs. the billions of dollars in revenues league owners share. Baseball’s initial financial proposal was meant to serve as a starting point in negotiations in order to get the season started in time for scheduled games to begin the first week of July. The problem is that the players feel they have been extremely low-balled and somewhat deceived by the franchises that pay them.
Owners have traditionally resorted to hard-bargaining tactics, while players have been less inclined to go toe-to-toe for great lengths of time. There aren’t many fallback jobs that pay at the level of professional athlete, though, and extended periods of unemployment will often result in concessions by the union. Disparities in income, where league minimum players are more likely to suffer financial hardship than a player like Mike Trout, often expose weaknesses in solidarity. Knowing that, the league went straight for the jugular with the sliding salary distribution model unveiled in their initial proposal, one that has less impact on players at the lower end of the scale.
In any labor dispute, opposing sides tend to respond in the way each is treated, which can create a vicious cycle of threats, demands, and other hardball strategies. The pattern those types of discussions create easily deteriorates into impasse, distrust, or subpar compromises that ultimately favor one side. Players learned that the hard way under the current CBA, where creature comforts outweighed real wage drivers like service time, luxury tax penalties, and qualifying offer restrictions.
When negotiators resort to take-it-or-leave-it tactics, the arbitrary nature of those discussions seem to lack integrity and can be conveyed as strictly a win-lose enterprise. Considering that both sides still need to charter a new CBA in the next 18 months, being heavy-handed now could lead to extended disruption. Can both sides reach an agreement to start the 2020 season? Anything is possible, but I have serious doubts so far.
Cubs News & Notes
- Jason Kipnis feels conflicted at times that he’s now playing for the Cubs.
- Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker remains hopeful that both the Cubs and White Sox will be hosting games starting in July.
- Nicholas Castellanos explained why Joe Maddon was destined to leave the Cubs.
- The organization’s minor league affiliates are relying on other activities to help weather the blow of the coronavirus pandemic.
- A walk-off home run by Aramis Ramirez is Len Kasper’s favorite call in his career as an announcer.
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Apropos of Nothing
A comment on yesterday’s column didn’t sit well with me overnight so let me quickly recap baseball’s mini-labor war for you all.
- The owners are reprehensibly out of line.
- The players have a right to fight for fair pay and should not give in.
- Rob Manfred is absolutely clueless.
Enjoy the rest of your day.
Odds & Sods
The PR hit the A’s have taken for this shady move will probably cost them a lot more money in the long run. How can anyone be a fan of this team right now?
The added shame about the A’s halting $400 weekly stipends for minor leaguers is that they remain A’s employees — just unpaid employees — and can’t seek free agency or file for unemployment. With the move the A’s save about $1M to 1.2M. @stephapstein and @EmilyCWaldon on it
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) May 28, 2020
MLB News & Notes
Nationals ace Max Scherzer, the player rep for his team, is frustrated with league owners and said that further pay cuts should be a non-starter for the union. Scherzer also said other players have expressed a similar sentiment.
Scherzer wants negotiations between the two sides aired publicly.
According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the player’s economic counter proposal, which is expected to be delivered to MLB tomorrow, will include a season of 100+ games, full prorated salaries, and full accountability of the league’s finances.
I’ve been wanting to write about a couple baseball documentaries I’ve watched recently, including The Battered Bastards of Baseball, This Old Cub, For The Fun of The Game, and Long Time Coming: A 1955 Baseball Story. I hope to get to those tomorrow or Monday.
As I’ve indicated previously, I will continue to champion that the Cubs bring Slammin’ Sammy back. I remember attending this game and leaving with a couple thoughts:
- County Stadium was as loud as Wrigley Field.
- Sammy Sosa was the game’s greatest slugger, and far more exciting to watch than Mark McGwire and Ken Griffey, Jr.
- Someday I was going to move to Milwaukee.
They Said It
- “After discussing the latest developments with the rest of the players there’s no reason to engage with MLB in any further compensation reductions. We have previously negotiated a pay cut in the version of prorated salaries, and there’s no justification to accept a 2nd pay cut based upon the current information the union has received.” – Max Scherzer
Thursday Walk Up Song
Rubber Biscuit by the Blues Brothers – This is from a show where the comedic blues duo opened for the Grateful Dead at the closing of the Winterland Theater on New Year’s Eve, 1978. I was in a mood.