MLB owners and the players’ union met Tuesday via digital meeting to discuss the possibility of playing ball in 2020. While both sides seem to have an interest in salvaging the season, they still appear to be miles apart when it comes to salary and health and safety concerns. The owners feel the proposal outlined below is fair given the current situation. However, the union expressed frustration and extreme disappointment with the plan.
The owners’ proposal took player representatives by surprise. Rumor has it, owners were originally discussing a potential 50/50 split for revenue sharing. Instead, the plan floated by owners called for drastic pay cuts for players. The cuts are predicated on the idea that compensation is commensurate with the shortened season and the lost revenue .
The formula for determining players’ final salaries is complex, but ultimately results in significant pay decreases. Player salaries will be reduced on a sliding scale. For starters, a player with a lower salary would start with 90% of his salary up to the $563,500 big league minimum. Salaries for players making $563,501 though $1 million would start at 72.5% of the original salary. For players making $1,000,001 through $5 million, they would see a decrease of 50%.
Higher paid players would see even larger reductions. Players making $5,000,001 through $10 million, would start by retaining 40% of their salary. Those making $10,000,0001 through $20 million would see 30%. Elite players would only see 20% of their earnings when making $20,000,001 and up.
But Wait…. There’s More
That’s not all. After determining the “new” salary, each player’s figure could then be further reduced. Players and owners previously agreed to a 82/162 formula to account for fewer games, a reduction of 49.4%.
MLB claims that its losses will be in the billions, making the drastic cuts necessary. But it seems clear players were not prepared for the new sliding scale salary formula plus having proration applied after the fact. Under the new proposal, player salaries will decrease from about $4 billion down to $1.23 billion.
Health and Safety
COVID-19 has changed the way the game will be played and viewed. At least initially, for fan safety, stadiums will likely start out empty. And where games will be played and against whom is yet to be decided. Will there be social distancing in the dugouts? Will players have sufficient time to get in game-shape to reduce risk of injury?
Players also have concerns about the risk posed to them and their families. Can their exposure ultimately harm their loved ones? Or will they need to quarantine during the season?
Is There Hope for More Games?
Players and owners both would like to play as many games as possible to increase revenue and salaries. The health and safety concerns listed above only increase with more games. But there are additional stumbling blocks.
Interestingly, super-agent Scott Boras raised the idea of a full season. His original proposal was to start in June, with playoffs in December, and the World Series wrapping up around Christmas. Another of his proposals is to play 144 games beginning in July with the same postseason schedule.
Both proposals would likely involve additional double-headers, risking player fatigue and injury. A longer season could also impact players by either resulting in a shorter off-season or a delayed Spring Training. Certainly a shortened season is more likely.
Will We Hear “Play Ball” in 2020?
Brewers’ owner Mark Attanasio said he is still hopeful that MLB and the players will ultimately come to an agreement. Brewers’ player representative Brett Suter has not commented recently, but surely feels the same. Can they and their counterparts come to an agreement that keeps players and fans safe, while still allowing both owners and players to share in profits? Fans all across the country, and especially here in Wisconsin are anxious for the return of America’s pastime.
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