Earlier today, on June 3rd, MLB owners officially rejected the MLBPA’s latest return-to-play proposal with no plans to counter, meaning that the beaming light that opening day once represented at the end of the COVID tunnel has now dwindled to the size of a match. This obviously is concerning baseball fans, given that the MLB seems to be the only major sports league that can’t figure this shit out. Now I’ve seen everyone on twitter so quick to blame the owners blindly, but to refute their side, one first must understand it, so do your best to try to empathize with a billionaire baseball owner for a moment.
(strap in, this’s going to have the chronological symmetry of a Jordan documentary)
To be fair to the owners, baseball’s schedule was probably the most awkwardly affected by the COVID-19 delay; NFL/NCAAFB are in offseason which’s given them months to prepare contingency plans, Boxing/UFC pulls the majority of their revenue from TV anyways, so fans aren’t an issue, Golf/NASCAR (racing) has social distancing implemented by nature, & NBA/NHL were faced with far less of a burden of fulfilling player contracts as they were nearly already finished with their regular seasons. Nevertheless, MLB owners expressed their intent on insuring a 2020 season, so on May 11th they all gathered up (likely in some ominous room subleased by Mr. Burns) & reached an agreement amongst themselves which included: 82 game season, universal DH, 14-team playoff & a 50/50 revenue split. Initially, it looked like this deal for a quirky season was going to get hashed out no problem. Still, on May 18th (after some more accounting, I guess?), the ownership group reveals that they won’t honor an earlier agreement made in March, claiming that they’d lose an average of $640,000/game with no fans and completely prorated salaries. They then submitted a new proposal to the players on the 26th, calling for all players to make less-than-prorated salaries, and precisely how much less would be determined on a sliding scale. Basically, the game’s top players, who’d be making the most money, would have the most significant percentage taken out of their pockets.
Ok, thanks for staying with me there, but I can’t do it anymore. That’s about as much as anyone can sugarcoat the owners’ bullshit. None of this should’ve even been an issue if they did have an agreement in March, so it’s become clear that these snakes have been trying to shaft the players from the get-go. It was pretty damn shady how the ownership group decided to wait an entire 7 days after negations began to bring up their financial concerns, shrinking the window of opportunity of getting a deal done by yet another week, and seemingly putting pressure on the players to get an unfavorable deal done. I got amped when Mad Max Scherzer and the rest of the league expressed how disrespected they felt by that bullshit proposal. It became pretty crystal who the bad guys were here once the MLBPA began submitting requests to the owners for financial documentations that could justify $800M in pay cuts. No one’s seen one piece of paper from the death star since the requests were made, which’s just further reinforced everyone’s belief that the owners are overselling their position & crying financial wolf. To anyone who still has one morsel of empathy towards the owners, let’s dip our toes into the fountain of greed that these scoundrels bathe in: as of May 30th, only six teams had committed to providing their minor leaguers with paychecks and benefits through August 31st (Royals, Twins, Reds, Red Sox, Pirates & thank god Astros). What’s the combined average net worth of all the owners who left their farm players hung out to dry, you ask? $2,645,833,333; How much does it cost to pay a minor league baseball player their weekly stipend = 400 fucking dollars.
Everyone is well aware that the owners won’t profit nearly as much this season, but they should have the foresight to know that this is not the time to save a few bucks by shedding financial burden onto their employees. They should realize that ownership of a professional sports organization is held to a higher level of scrutiny than any small business venture – when you buy a team, you’re buying into a city, and solidifying yourself as a pillar within it. People look to their sports franchises for inspiration during trying times like these, and how these organizations respond to adversity can set the tone for an entire city. Showing a willingness to sacrifice money to take care of your own is precisely the type of model that citizens all over the country are looking for right now to inspire hope, but they’re not getting that. Their getting a flock of greedy billionaires who only give a fuck about their respective cities when it’s making them a pretty penny. Every owner who isn’t paying their minor leaguers is a dick & everyone that voted to submit that last proposal is an asshole. As much as I miss drinking beer in those uncomfortable green seats at Minute Maid, I hope they go on strike; maybe then they’ll start to see a fraction of the respect that NBA owners show to their players. See y’all in 2022.