Phillies

Phillies

It should have been here already. 

While the NBA and NHL owners and players have agreed to resume their seasons in one form or another, baseball remains at an impasse between the players' union and league owners.

There is venom spewing from both sides of this coming from fans, and rightfully so. They miss baseball. They'll take it any way they can get it. The players want to play. They have already agreed to a prorated salary structure back in March. But the more recent offers from owners are asking them to play for a fraction of that proration, and the players aren't having it.

The proposal from owners Monday wasn't exactly met with open arms and players were vocal on social media. It seems as though owners are making the same offer, time and time again, just in different wrapping paper. This latest submission reportedly even includes a requirement for players to sign a waiver so that they wouldn't be able to take legal action against their employers if they were to contract the coronavirus on the job.

The owners' argument is that every game played without fans in the stands is lost revenue. Phillies managing partner John Middleton wrote in a letter to employees that about 40% of total team revenue comes from fan attendance. That's a big piece of the pie. 

But that's not to say there will be no incoming revenue. Many teams have lucrative local television deals, more than half have ownership stakes in the regional sports networks that carry rights to their games, including the Phillies.

 

If Middleton's 40% figure is uniform across the league, how can owners ask players to take a pay cut of 65% or more? How will players possibly make that money back? Baseball careers are a finite amount of years, unlike an ownership stake, which carries on ad infinitum, and grows at almost a geometric rate.

According to Forbes, the average value of an MLB franchise in 2020 is $1.85 billion, a 20% increase from just three years ago. Owners don't have to deal with ACLs, Tommy John surgeries, 10-game road trips, or playing during a global pandemic. Their money makes money, and that money makes even more money.

If a team has a great season, and breaks attendance records, and sells ridiculous amounts of merchandise, do the players get a cut of that windfall? Of course not. They get paid what they agreed to in their contracts, and not a dime more. Owners should pay the players what they agreed to back in March, and not a dime less.

Buying a piece of a pro sports franchise is an investment. Often, it's a very profitable investment. But sometimes investments take a loss. Anyone who currently has a 401K can certainly attest to that right now. 

Maybe, just this once, MLB owners can take this loss. A good-faith move that would get the sport back on the field. One financial hit over a few years that would build a great deal of goodwill with their most valued commodities — the players and fans. It would amount to a drop in the bucket over the long haul.

Heck, it's probably a tax write-off.

The alternative — a canceled season — could lead to a far greater long-term loss. In 1994, the season ended in August due to a players' strike, and the postseason was canceled. The following season, league-wide attendance dropped 20 percent. 

Here's hoping they realize what's at stake before time runs out.

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