After a week of prolonged negotiations between the MLBPA and the MLB owners, talks appeared to be at a standoff on players’ salaries. Jon Heyman of the MLB network tweeted out recently that the owners have given the players two options: 1) negotiate a new financial arrangement (something other than prorated pay for players playing games with no fans in attendance) or 2) wait until the Coronavirus clears to the point where fans can attend games.
The first option was made because players have balked at the idea of taking less than the prorated salaries that they agreed to in March. The owners had said that paying players their full prorated salaries in a proposed 82-game without fans would result in cash losses of more than $4 billion. The players are skeptical of that and have asked the league to open their books in order to verify this claim.
MLB offered that position to the union last Tuesday in a document entitled, “Economics of Playing Without Fans in Attendance.” Commissioner Rob Manfred cited the potential $4 billion loss in an interview with CNN two days later, and the Associated Press first reported the details of the document last Saturday night.
The league claims that paying players their full pro-rated salaries with empty stadiums is not feasible for two reasons. Nearly 40 percent of industry revenue comes from the gate and other in-park sources. This is money that will not exist when parks are empty. Also, the MLB claims that per-game local media and sponsorship revenue also would be substantially lower than per-game player salaries, adding to the projected shortfall.
The second option seems to be something the MLB wants to give to the players to think about. If the players want prorated salaries, they will have to wait until all, or almost all teams can return their home parks with fans in attendance. Since this may not be possible on July 1, the league appears to be hinting that if they start too late, they may not be able to play 82 games, further reducing their prorated salaries anyway.
This option also has many pitfalls. The first being that there is a fear that another wave of COVID-19 will force the cancellation of part of the 2020 regular season and/or postseason. National media money is concentrated in the postseason, with $787 million owed to the playoffs compared to $553 million in the regular season. Also, if any hot spots occur in certain parts of the country, those governments could decide to resume stay-at-home restrictions, thus ending fans in the stands or even games in their home parks.
Heyman also tweeted that because of these fears, MLB does not want baseball being played into November when another wave could force a post-season cancellation.
We talked earlier about the fact that these two sides were waging a game of high-stakes poker with our national past time. Well, the owners just made a wager, time to see if the players call or up the bet.
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