MLBPA chief Tony Clark recently discussed the pandemic-driven baseball hiatus with ESPN.com’s Marly Rivera. While specifics remain frustratingly unavailable, it’s important to understand the thinking of the top union official regarding the potential resumption of play.
We’d all love for conditions to permit the 2020 season to begin, but Clark indicates that it remains unclear precisely when and how that might occur. “I don’t know that there is a definitive plan yet,” he says.
Clark acknowledged that “it is a delicate balance” in deciding upon a route back and that “there may never be a perfect time” to move forward. But the union intends to “work alongside the league to find that right spot in time to get us back on the field,” with the hope being that “it is sooner rather than later.”
While we’ve heard chatter over disagreements regarding player salaries in the event of TV-only games, Clark frames things a bit differently — unsurprisingly, given the union’s stance. “Our position is that with respect to player salaries, we’ve had that discussion already,” says Clark. “Our focus now is on health and safety moving forward.”
While the union’s position is that the matter of paychecks is already decided, Clark also seemed to acknowledge a possible need to revisit the matter when details of the 2020 season come into clearer focus.
“We have an agreement in place that speaks to a reduction in player salaries in a season that’s less than 162 games. That agreement is in place. Any further discussion, then the league has the ability to make additional proposals against the backdrop of situations that may have been contemplated in the initial agreement but are different or may be different moving forward, and we have the ability to respond.”
That’s rather obscure — likely by design. But Clark seems to be suggesting that, even if MLB is right that player salaries can be revisited in the event of attendance-free contests, the onus is on the league to show cause for any further reductions.
There’s obviously a lot of public relations posturing in these comments (as with those of MLB officials). After emphasizing the union’s focus on health — which is both a legitimate concern and better ground to stand upon than compensation — Clark noted: “We’ll see whether or to what extent the league is focused on something different.”
Clark acknowledged ongoing conversations regarding the need to “mitigate as much risk as possible” and to address possible liabilities, but it doesn’t sound as if much has been decided. The sides haven’t discussed the next CBA in connection with the 2020 season, he added, which suggests that complicated matter won’t become directly intertwined the uncharted ground currently being navigated.
Needless to say, there are many potential stumbling blocks in the realm of labor relations. But the sides both have huge incentive to facilitate a path back to play and to avoid open conflict over profits. Ultimately, Clark says: “the lines of communication are open, and as long as they are open, there’s an opportunity to work through and try and find common ground despite our differences.”