All major professional sports leagues face three main hurdles in returning during the coronavirus pandemic.
How to manage everyone's safety, how to modify the game rules, and how to allocate money between the players and the league.
It’s that third part which remains MLB’s final, yet biggest challenge to clear.
“It’s almost like you’re at the top of the hill,” NBC Sports California A's broadcaster and former pitcher Dallas Braden said Wednesday. “It’s like we’re right there. We can see it, and it’s a matter of trying to figure out how everybody is going to be able to walk away from this okay in their minds.”
Players have widely opposed the latest proposal from the MLB, which essentially is a second wave of pay cuts for a 2020 season. But this time, the percentage of reduction greatly increases with the player's total salary.
As ESPN's Jeff Passan reported Wednesday, MLB proposed that a $563,500 salary would turn into $262,000 for 2020. Meanwhile, a player signed for $30M would be reduced to $6.95M.
Potential salary cuts in MLB plan, sources tell @JesseRogersESPN and me:— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 26, 2020
“When you start hand-selecting employees, you are absolutely going to be creating a divide," Braden said. "And it’s because you’re now telling these two sides, who are on the same side, that they are separate.”
The MLB Players Association is expected to counter MLB's proposal by the end of the week, Passan reported later Wednesday night, citing sources. Passan reported that the players are expected to propose a plan that includes more than 100 games and a guarantee of full prorated salaries for the 2020 season
Braden says players have earned their present position of leverage from their years of hard work before they were ever promised an opportunity in Major League Baseball.
“What that person is doing is saying ‘You know what, boss man’,” Braden said. “I’m not going to take that 70 percent haircut you’re offering me right now. Because I’ve been working a swing-shift. I’ve been doing graveyard, double-time. I’ve been saving up so when something like this happens, thankfully I’m not in a position to have to take that 70 percent haircut.”
But players at the major league level aren't the only ones being impacted. Minor leaguers are suffering as well, as the chances of a minor-league season taking place appear slimmer and slimmer.
No season would likely mean little-to-no compensation for thousands of players, many of whom were already financially constrained.
“Minor leagues are littered with two-bedroom apartments, stacked with eight to ten guys high,” Braden said. “Three in a room, figuring it out. Just figuring it out.”
As for rules and game format changes, Braden believes players will make the best of difficult adaptations. He also believes the A’s will perform as expected, no matter what their schedule looks like.
“I’ve always thought we were an extremely attractive ballclub. Nothing keeping us away from making a push towards that division.”
Unfortunately at this juncture, Braden is pessimistic about the possibility of MLB and its players finding common ground.
“I hate to say it, but, I think I’ll be seeing you next year, before I see you this year.”