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The Turf Weighs In: The MLB and MLBPA Salary Battle

Discussions around restarting the 2020 season continue to be focused solely on salary.

Marlins by Enchateddrmzceo is licensed under CC BY SA-3.0

The Turf Weighs In: The MLB and MLBPA Salary Battle


Estimated Reading Time: 4 Minutes

Very few topics have stirred up our writer’s room lately like the ongoing salary negotiations (if we can call them that) between MLB and the MLBPA. The amount of layers to this story is truly what provides the energy needed to keep such a take-storm going. And the way both baseball parties have continued to publicly battle it out without making any real progress, our writer’s room will have plenty to talk about in the coming days and weeks.

To catch you up, the owners proposed pro-rated salary cuts for players, in order to align with the shortened season that has resulted from the COVID pandemic. Recently, the owners have brought a new ask to the negotiating table, in the form of a sliding-scale pay cut for players across the board. The MLBPA, of course, was not happy. And now, the players are ready to propose a new 100-game season, will fully guaranteed pro-rated salaries included.

With all this mess going on, and no firm plan in sight, we asked our writers: what is the biggest problem right now in these negotiations? Is it the owners, who seem hell-bent on recouping every dollar they can? Or is it the players, who now are proposing a LONGER season after previously harping about risking their health? Maybe it’s the fact that all this mud-slinging is happening on Twitter, or that PR spin is more of a motivator for each side than it should be. Or is it the fact that each side has spent weeks talking about money and barely any time actually talking about logistics and safety measures? Here’s what some of our writers had to say:

Andrew Mark Wilhelm

My two biggest points are: quit trying to use what is “fair” as a rationalization. Nothing about this has ever been fair, nor is anything ever. And, more importantly: Maybe MLB and the MLBPA should actually have negotiations and quit using the media and fan reaction as tools to determine who gets more money.

Matt DaSilva

My main takeaway about the negotiation is: Until MLB actually shows any financials proving that any individual teams or the league will be in jeopardy of folding under the current agreement, the players union should not give an inch. It may be better to work for a happy boss than a bankrupt one, but it’s also stupid to believe a boss is bankrupt just because they say they are.

About the media: The MLB has been using the press to turn fans against players by calling them greedy since the literal 1800s. While they’re still using the same strategy, it’s a bit encouraging to see some big outlet journalists – most notably Jeff Passan at ESPN – taking a more balanced approach in their coverage of the negotiations. Social media allows players to effectively serve as their own spokesmen and not rely on the media. Hopefully, players can find an effective way to harness that power and combat MLB’s attempts to paint them as bad guys.

Justin Colombo

Here’s a question. What’s the plan? Let’s say tomorrow, the players and owners get on the same page, what happens then? What’s the plan? There is none. The NBA and NHL began planning their restarts with health and safety guidelines first. The MLB? They started talking money and then figured the safety stuff would be easy. We’ve played this money game before in 1994 and the players lost the fans and the owners lost the players, and things went into turmoil. We’re careening towards that same result, except this time, the owners have been consistently shifting the conversation to make the players look greedy. MEANWHILE, teams like the Oakland A’s are cutting their MiLB contracts, and leaving their players with nothing. So now, after being deemed Seasonal Employees and being denied benefits, the Athletics have cut minor league salaries, and those under contract can’t file for benefits. So how does this work out for the players? How does this work at all? And in the midst of all of this, we’re talking about 1,500 jobs for millionaires. We’re not talking about the 50,000+ stadium jobs that have been lost to this season. No one’s talking about that. That’s the biggest loss here. What are we even doing anymore?

Kevin Morin

I’m tired, y’all. I am. I’ll be dead honest, I don’t care about baseball coming back this year. My 12 year old self would be screaming at me. Owners, open your books. Players and owners, figure out how to help stadium workers. Because if you go back to play, with no fans, you’re still fucked. I just don’t care about the game right now. I care about people’s well being. And there are way bigger things right now than using the media as a middle person to deliver messages back and forth.

Matt Branigan

And here’s the other thing we keep forgetting. Put the money aside for a moment. All it takes is ONE. One case of the virus and then what happens? If we want to talk about transparency, how about the transparency revolving around not just the finances, but the contingency planning that covers the overall well-being of your players, staff, etc. Like…your employees. Maybe this is something they should be prioritizing in their negotiations. Because this is a fight against a common enemy: the virus. Maybe this is something that both parties can agree to. Start that kind of momentum and naturally, a financial resolution may be reached. But all this money talk, but what happens if you can’t even maintain or continue a season?

Katie Pierce

Well at least someone is doing something to help the minor leaguers.

Ryan Kelly lives in Cambridge, MA, a stone's throw away from his beloved Boston teams. When he is not working as an editorial assistant, he is providing commentary on the Boston Red Sox and Boston Bruins for The Turf.

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