This week is the most important week in MLB in the past 25 years. That’s ESPN’s Jeff Passan’s position, as the future of the MLB season hinges on whether or not MLB owners and the MLB Players Association (MLBPA) are able to reach an agreement on the economics of any possible revenue sharing once the season kicks off again – if it kicks off again.
That still looks like a longshot after the owners presented the players’ union with an economic proposal on Tuesday, with high-salaried MLB players taking significant reductions of what they would be paid during a prospective season, sources told ESPN.
While the size of the pay cuts is unclear, sources said the highest-paid players would receive perhaps less than 40% of their full-season salaries. Players “bristled” at such a plan, according to ESPN.
The coronavirus forced an early halt to baseball just ahead of the highly anticipated Opening Day in March and there is still no clear consensus on when the bats might start cracking once again. The hope is to have the league on the field for games in July, and the first step ahead of any Spring Training 2.0, which many want to see next month, will be for the league’s different components to handle the economic situation, which is already causing the MLB a lot of grief.
Coronavirus Has Permanently Rewritten Baseball
Passan said on Twitter today, “Considering what’s at stake, this has a chance to be the most important week for baseball in more than a quarter century. MLB is expected to deliver its long-awaited financial proposal today, and the fallout from it could be the difference between baseball or no baseball in 2020.” That financial proposal will need to show some degree of favoritism toward players, or the MLPBA is likely to reject it completely.
The MLBPA already made it clear that the agreement reached in March, which stipulated prorated salaries for players, was the only option they would accept and that it had been the agreement that would carry through until whenever baseball was able to resume.
However, since that initial agreement was reached, league owners have backpedaled, arguing that they meant to say that the prorated salaries would be provided as long as fans were able to find their way to the stands. So far, there are no plans to allow games in any major sports league to see fan participation.
Perhaps team owners didn’t think everything through completely and assumed that fans would be allowed to attend games once the coronavirus pandemic was brought under control. They weren’t counting on the losses incurred from the lack of ticket sales, parking, concessions, etc. Team owners started making assertions that the losses would be in the “billions of dollars,” a statement the MLBPA won’t accept without being able to see it on paper. If the financial arrangement the owners propose doesn’t demonstrate the expected losses, the MLBPA has already said it would reject the proposal.
MLB Economics Proposal Is Still Not Cast
The idea was to have the financial proposal sent to the MLBPA by the end of last week, but it now seems that owners haven’t been able to find the time to discuss their options. According to Jon Heyman, a baseball insider with sources that provide him with information, “MLB owners are holding a phone call today and are expected to vote on a formal financial proposal before sending it to the players union for their consideration. Folks are expecting a gap to remain but seem cautiously optimistic in advance of the presentation of the proposal.”
Owners initially wanted players to take the brunt of the coronavirus hit and receive only 25-30% of their normal salary. This was seen as an insult presented by individuals worth hundreds of millions of dollars who weren’t willing to take any grief over COVID-19. Now not willing to trust team owners, players are going to be extremely cautious with any proposal handed over.
The MLBPA has already lost three to four days that it could have used to review the recommendations of owners, which now puts a MLB restart in danger, purely because of the economics. According to one player’s agent, agreeing to any proposal is only one step of many to be taken before baseball can make a comeback. He explained, “You have to get players to wherever they are going to have spring training, figure out housing, figure out how their families will figure into this. To get players back on the field is not going to simply happen after an agreement happens. They need an answer soon, probably by the end of this week.”
Unless everyone starts to work overtime to get a deal done, America’s Pastime is in jeopardy of missing a season.