10:55pm: The MLBPA does indeed plan to send its proposal to the league by week’s end, Passan tweets.
10:22pm: Nationals ace Max Scherzer, the team’s union representative and a member of the MLBPA executive council, issued a statement on Twitter, saying: “After discussing the latest developments with the rest of the players there’s no reason to engage with MLB in any further compensation reductions. We have previously negotiated a pay cut in the version of prorated salaries, and there’s no justification to accept a 2nd pay cut based upon the current information the union has received. I’m glad to hear other players voicing the same viewpoint and believe MLB’s economic strategy would completely change if all documentation were to become public information.”
8:46pm: Some players held a call today and were “pretty galvanized” in their distaste for MLB’s proposal, Heyman tweets. It’s in question whether the players will even make a counteroffer, Heyman and Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com hear.
10:11am: Major League Baseball presented its long-awaited economic plan to the Players Association yesterday, and the union’s reaction was predictable: extreme disappointment. As reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan and Jesse Rogers, the sliding scale proposed to players would see the game’s league-minimum players would be paid about $262K of their would-be $563,500 salaries — roughly 46 percent (owners surely prefer to portray it as 92 percent of their prorated salaries in an 82-game season). The game’s top stars would be earning just over 22 percent of their full-season salary (44 percent of their prorated salaries). Many see the scale as an effort to create a divide within the union (lesser-paid players versus well-compensated stars).
The MLBPA is expected to reject the league’s proposal and counter in the coming days, per Passan and Rogers, with one point of compromise being a longer season. Playing more games would increase revenue available to owners and thus provide the players with a larger portion of their salaries. Interestingly, Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic report (subscription required) that the league’s sliding-scale proposal did not include the expanded postseason format that many were anticipating.
Expanding to a 14-team postseason format in 2020 would create additional revenue, and the players have previously been said to be amenable to such a schedule. Opting not to include it is strange, as the 14-team format originated with the commissioner’s office; it’s hard not to wonder if the league’s omission was an effort to make the players’ side include a league initiative in its counter, then claim it as a compromise upon accepting. Regardless of the motives at play, the timing of a counteroffer from the union is unclear. There’s no meeting between the two sides today, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets, but agents, players and the union will discuss the proposal among themselves. The New York Post’s Joel Sherman writes that the two sides left yesterday’s meeting without a followup scheduled.
Players have had a wide range of reactions to the proposal, but they’re generally unified in rejecting the sliding scale structure — at least in its present form. Andrew Miller, one of eight players on the union’s executive subcommittee, told Rosenthal and Drellich that he’s “disappointed in where MLB is starting the discussion” but spoke with optimism about the possibility of finding a palatable middle ground. Mets righty Marcus Stroman tweeted yesterday, “This season is not looking promising,” while Brewers lefty Brett Anderson blasted the league for its efforts to make the game’s “best, most marketable players potentially look like the bad guys.”
Several agents spoke to Drellich and Rosenthal about player reaction to the proposal, with one indicating the “collective response” was unprecedented and that players are “livid.” Another scoffed at the very notion that MLB would present a proposal it knew would be so immediately rejected, lamenting that “there is so much distrust on both sides that we can’t be pragmatic adults.”
That distrust seems to be the core of the issue. The MLBPA has repeatedly cast substantial doubt on the league’s persistent claims that revenue losses are so substantial that this level of pay reduction is effectively a necessity. At the same time, teams have seemingly yet to provide the player side with sufficiently transparent evidence of that claim. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman tweeted late last week that an internal memo sent by the union to its players expressed frustration over the fact that Major League Baseball has still not responded to a March 13 request for financial documentation outlining the extent of revenue losses without fans in attendance. There’s no indication that has changed.
On the one hand, it’s easy to imagine that there’s a degree of legitimacy to ownership claims that additional cuts are necessary to mitigate losses in a season without gate and concession revenue. Is this extent of additional reductions in their proposal truly reflective of their economic picture, though? That seems doubtful, and the MLBPA claims it has yet to see sufficient evidence in this arena. Teams’ reluctance to open the books isn’t surprising, particularly given the manner in which both sides habitually and strategically leak “private” documents. (We’re all following along with this ugly billionaires-versus-millionaires quarrel for a reason, after all.) Perhaps the reluctance stems from the simple fact that their claims won’t be substantiated; perhaps it’s a lack of good faith that nothing will become public. Both could be factors.
Whatever the reasons, the rampant distrust displayed by both parties is increasingly unbecoming to a fanbase that is desperately craving some piece of normalcy amid a global pandemic that has created an unprecedented upheaval of everyday life. With every day that goes by, the optics of the situation deteriorate, and we inch closer to further delays of what will already be a truncated season. Both sides continue to express optimism about playing games in 2020 — Brewers owner Mark Attanasio did so yesterday, as did Miller in his comments to The Athletic — but the public back-and-forth became tired long ago.