A first, small, step toward baseball’s resumption was taken Monday afternoon when Major League Baseball owners approved a proposal to send to the Major League Baseball Players Union on Tuesday, according to multiple reports.
This is progress the same way dipping a toe in the water is going for a swim. A lot of convincing remains for the final plunge to be executed.
The proposal includes plans for an expanded postseason and the season to be cut in half. Truncating the games to around 81 total is natural with the timeline which includes hope of a July 1 start. These are the logical steps.
Trouble will come if the owners -- desperately concerned about their personal revenue reductions -- will ask the players to further take a pay cut. An initial agreement rapidly brokered when spring training halted included the players conceding to prorated salaries in exchange for a full year of service time -- even if there wasn’t a season.
Why was the service time so important? The same reason it’s so important to owners to maximize games: money. Call it The Mookie Betts agreement. He can be a free agent in the offseason, was traded because Boston did not want to pay him long-term (yet) and will be walking into an enormous contract next. His clock needed to move. Young stars like Juan Soto needed to get closer to free agency. The players were protecting their best chance to eventually cash in. Taking a pay cut was the cost.
But, if they are asked to take a further pay cut -- or have their finances contingent on revenue sharing -- they will balk.
MLBPA executive director Tony Clark issued this statement on the topic April 20:
“Players recently reached an agreement with Major League Baseball that outlines economic terms for resumption of play, which included significant salary adjustments and a number of other compromises. That negotiation is over.”
Yet, the owners’ proposal contains a 50-50 revenue split, according to USA Today.
Players are desperate to resume the season. They -- and commissioner Rob Manfred -- initially hoped Major League Baseball could begin ramping up again in May. That is not happening. The new timeline involved three weeks of spring training in June, then perhaps a natural start date of fourth of July weekend. Games without fans -- at least to start -- appear all but guaranteed. And, that situation is a driving factor in the owners’ proposal. No ticket sales, no concessions, etc., means a drastic loss of revenue.
Monday’s agreement on the first proposal to bounce back to the union is minimal movement. However, after being stagnant for weeks, even that is to be well-received. Next is to get both sides to agree amid what will be a very tricky public relations dynamic on top of a financial tussle. Neither side wants to appear as the petulant one preventing baseball from resuming. But, both want to be paid.
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