According to Evan Drellich of The Athletic, the MLB Players Association has delivered its counter-proposal to the league following the joke of a sliding scale owners presented last Tuesday. Under that doomed concept, players would have been paid less than a quarter of their aggregate full-season salaries even if more than half the season was played.
As Drellich summarized on Twitter, the players are asking for a 114-game season that would run from June 30 through October 31 and include expanded playoffs this year and next. Though it might first seem strange to expand the postseason in 2021 as well, this is pretty clearly an appeal to the owners, who stand to generate a great deal of revenue from such a plan.
The real kicker here is the $100 million in deferred salary, which would help ease the financial “burden” on cash-strapped owners while still keeping players at their prorated salary levels. There’s also an opt-out for players who choose not to play, though the specific salary implications in those cases were not laid out.
• Deferral would be ONLY if the postseason is canceled. Would apply to contracts of $10 million above (before being prorated). Payments would be in November 2021 and 2022.
• Either way, players would get additional salary advance during spring training camp of $100 million.
— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) June 1, 2020
As Drellich further clarified, however, the deferral would only happen if the playoffs were canceled. Again, that’s the real cash cow here and the consensus has been that the owners really need those sweet, sweet playoff broadcast rights to really make out well. That brings us back to the carrot of expanding the postseason next year, a concept that is more forward-thinking than the owners’ proposal, which seems to be little more than a temporary CYA measure.
The league presenting a pay structure even worse than the initial concept of a 50-50 revenue split was a ploy clearly aimed at painting the players as bad guys and sowing unrest among union members, but it was too heavy-handed to work well. It certainly did accomplish that first end, though, at least if our Facebook comments are any indication. Let’s just say there are lots of baseball fans with sore backs from carrying water for owners.
The long-term health of the sport is more dependent upon the health, safety, and performance of the players than it is the temporary upheaval in billionaires’ balance sheets. That’s why working on a more player-friendly setup this season will be better for baseball in the long run.
As such, the players have presented some options that largely counter the owners’ claims that they will lose money in a shortened season played in empty ballparks. Between salary deferrals and extra playoff money, perhaps even the chance for fans to be in attendance late in the season, the union has essentially removed the public fears expressed by most of the men wielding power in the league.
A few cheap bastards will surely gripe about it no matter what, but they are likely in the extreme minority. Hey, maybe if Bob Nutting is so “perfectly willing” to call off the season just to save more money than he has by suspending contributions to employees’ 401(k) accounts, he should sell the team to someone less miserly and walk away with a lot more than nutting. Or nothing, either way.
It’s hard to imagine the owners will accept this latest proposal as-is, but it at least establishes a new line in the sand and puts the players in a more favorable position from a public perspective. Expect talks to intensify this week, since a season starting June 30 means having protocols in place very soon.