By: Justin Girshon
May 20, 2020
Although the MLB season was supposed to start on March 26, not one person knows if or when baseball will return. On March 12, MLB announced that the 2020 season had been delayed by at least two weeks and further Spring Training games had been canceled. More than two months have passed and MLB and the MLBPA are in the beginning stages of negotiating terms that would allow a 2020 season. On May 11, MLB Owners approved a proposal that commissioner Rob Manfred then presented to the MLBPA on May 12. Unfortunately, some players have taken to social media to show their dissatisfaction with MLB’s proposal. The good news is that since negotiations have started, we will soon know if baseball will be played (or not) in 2020, and New York, California, Florida, and Texas are all moving towards a return of professional sports. The bad news is that MLB and the MLBPA still have a lot of ground to cover in order to reach an agreement. Below, I will analyze one specific detail MLB and the MLBPA must agree to in order to have a season.
Players must be satisfied with their salary
When MLB and the MLB owners leaked their proposal on May 11, their goal was to make headlines for themselves and make the players look greedy, selfish, and viewed as villains. In MLB’s proposal, they have players taking a 50% salary cut off their original salaries, an additional 33% salary cut off of the 50%, and on top of all that; player salary is still taxed. For example, if a player’s original contract had them making $10 million, 50% would be cut from their salary now leaving them with a $5 million salary; From the $5 million a player is now supposed to make, an additional 33% will be taken off now leaving that player with a $3.33 million salary for the season before the player is even taxed. In short, an MLB player would lose 66.7% (plus additional money to taxes) of their original salary to play about 50% of a season. Unfortunately (but expectedly), MLB owners have received backlash from both players and agents regarding their salary proposal.
When MLB’s proposal first became public, super agent Scott Boras urged players not to take MLB’s proposal. A couple of days later, Rays star pitcher Blake Snell said, “No, I gotta get my money. I’m not playing unless I get mine, OK? And that’s just the way it is for me. Like, I’m sorry you guys think differently, but the risk is way the hell higher and the amount of money I’m making is way lower. Why would I think about doing that?” In response to Snell, Phillies superstar Bryce Harper stated, “He ain’t lying. He’s speaking the truth bro. I ain’t mad at him. Somebody’s gotta say it, at least he manned up and said it. Good for him. I love Snell, the guy’s a beast. One of the best lefties in the game.”
The media did not react well to the claims made by Snell and Harper as many stated they are being greedy and they will still earn more than what essential workers will make. This prompted ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith to say, “What are you doing? You shut the hell up and let your player’s association speak. You shut the hell up. You signed a $50 million contract. You can’t tell people at a time when 33 million people-plus are on unemployment, you can’t sit up there, ‘Oh, I’ve got to get mine.”
After hearing the public’s perception, Snell doubled down on his earlier statement by saying, “I want people to understand, what I’m saying is real. I’m concerned just like everybody else about the virus, and I want to make sure me and my peers are taken care of. We want to play under circumstances that we agreed upon as a group. I will play if I get 50 percent and we play 50 percent of the season. But to accept making less than that and with more risks for our health, it’s not fair to the players.”
In addition to Scott Boras, Blake Snell, and Bryce Harper; Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer and his agent Rachel Luba have also publicly criticized MLB’s proposal. Bauer stated, “The ask is basically take more risk by getting back sooner and take less pay than we’ve already agreed. We’ve already agreed to take … a 50 percent pay cut and now they’re asking us to take another pay cut. (A 50-50 revenue split) has never been done in baseball. It’s not collectively bargained. It would just be for this season. It doesn’t sit well with me. Slightly lighthearted, but if I’m gonna have to trust my salary to Rob Manfred marketing the game to make more money for the game, I am out on that.”
Although MLB owners certainly don’t want to way their players, they might just have to. During a CNN appearance on May 14, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred stated, “If we don’t play a season, the losses for the owners could approach $4 billion.” Due to owners potentially at risk of losing $4 billion, they are clearly in need of a season more than the players are. This benefits the players because the owners will eventually have to work towards a deal that would pay the players around 50% of their supposed salary for playing roughly 50% of the season. I don’t see anyway players will accept anything under 50% of their original salary because assuming only half a season is played, players should earn half of what they would’ve earned. Although players may be seen as greedy, they will be risking their lives to play baseball and if they don’t feel what their earning is what they deserve, players will have no motivation to get back on the diamond.