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Support the players, not MLB owners

The players took a stand against the owner’s recent proposal; they should have.

Washington Nationals v Houston Astros Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

With the battle raging between players and owners, I feel like I need to emphasize that millionaires and billionaires are not the same thing. I know that’s obvious. But it’s hard to grasp just how different they are, because most of us have no conception of how much a billion is even though intellectually we understand what it is. The difference between a million and a billion is the same as the average US salary and $56 million. I don’t know, I get tired of seeing “millionaires fighting billionaires” all the time in the struggle to start the season and thought I’d start my post with that.

Also, and I cannot stress this enough, A DEAL WAS AGREED TO IN MARCH! The deal did not come contingent upon there being fans. They said “they would talk about not having fans” which is an entirely different thing than saying “we’ll agree to re-negotiate our salaries if there can be no fans.” This is all on the owners. They apparently made a bad deal, although the extent to which they made a bad deal, I am shall we say skeptical about given the lower reliance on attendance than ever. Joe Sheehan is not always right, but he’s absolutely spot on with this tweet.

We know the exact figure that players make every year, so they’re the bad guys if a season doesn’t happen. We don’t know how much the owners make. We just have to take their word for it that they’ll lose money if they have no fans. They still make money from TV deals, merchandising, and other things. They won’t make as much money, but that’s clearly not the same thing as the very dubious claim that the owners could lose $4 billion if no season happens. Included in that claim is an assumption of not making a certain amount I’m sure, which... again not the same thing as losing money!

Nevertheless, it is clearly in both players and owners’ best interest to play games in 2020. Players are making whatever percentage of $170 million the MLBPA gives you, which is less than what they’d make if there was a season. Owners have to pay the players $170 million and get no money from TV from no season (they’d probably also see a dip in merchandise and other enterprises). Getting something for this season has handed the players with a nice bit of leverage actually. The 1994-1995 strike involved getting no money. If nothing happens this season, MLB players still get a 2020 salary, however much less than it is than normal.

Most importantly, in this writer’s opinion, if no season happens, it could impact baseball negatively for the future. Fans will sour over there being no season when there could have been and may abandon ship as a fan. It will not be the majority of fans, but it could be enough to significantly tank fan interest. How many fans are currently finding themselves surprisingly okay with no baseball right now? Probably not people reading this specific blog, but it’s not zero either. When you realize you can live without baseball for a year and then player-owner relationships torpedo a season, it’s not hard to imagine losing that fan.

On the flipside, imagine what baseball could do to fan interest if it happened right now? It sounds like the NBA and NHL may figure out plans of their own, but there’s a reality where baseball may literally be the only sport on for a time. It could gain fans in the process. I’m not saying it’s likely, but it’s also not that implausible either.

Basically, I think owners are shooting themselves in the foot if they’re too worried about profit for 2020 specifically, because actions they take now could potentially harm the sport’s future. Now, that’s really nothing new with the owners - for as smart as they are supposed to be, every thing they do suggests short-term interests only. Well, I guess most of them are old and well there you have it on not focusing longer-term I guess.

It seems like a very clear cut solution to this seemingly insurmountable problem. The players feel they deserve to get paid for what was agreed to, and that is a prorated amount of money based on games played, which appears to come out to something like 50% of their 2020 salary. Owners feel they can’t take too much of a loss for the 2020 season and think they can’t pay the players’ full salaries. What’s the obvious solution? Salary deferments.

I don’t understand why the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement with some deferred salary commitments. Of course that’s just one tweet and it’s not like the players offered that. But it seems like they’d be open to it. The owners? Well, that’s harder to say. It would seem to me they should be in favor of it, seeing as money now is more valuable than money later. But it’s hard to say when their first offer was such a joke of an offer.

That tweet, which he clarifies later, is slightly misleading, because they are already getting a salary half of what the figures above are. Because half the games will be played. So the league minimum guys are not actually getting 90% of $563,000, they’re getting 90% of half of that. This was an offer explicitly designed, in my opinion anyway, to turn the fans against the players. They knew the players wouldn’t accept this. They knew the fans would see that the people being most harmed would be the big money makers. They would have no sympathy for the multi-millionaire players.

And the players, represented by Max Scherzer below, appear to responding how they should respond when the owners clearly have no respect for them.

First off, feels pretty good being a Mizzou grad right now, not going to lie. Secondly, MLB’s economic strategy would absolutely be different if made public. Then we would know how much money they make and they couldn’t claim poor here. Again, we know what players make. We don’t know what owners make. There’s a reason for that. When you have Rob Manfred claiming owners will lose $4 billion, which even the most owner-friendly fan has to know is bull, you can believe literally nothing coming out of their mouths when it comes to money.

I think the owners overplayed their hand here a bit. The owners’ offer was such a joke that I think it has turned fans that may be “neutral” against the owners. I am clearly not that fan - I’m pro-player all the way here. But they’re Charles Comiskey during the Deadball era (which yes I came up with because I watched out VEB Movie Club movie Eight Men Out earlier today).

If we could trust the owners when they say they’d lose money during the 2020 season, maybe it’s a different story. But I don’t believe them. I definitely don’t believe they’d lose money to the extent they’re trying to sell. Salary deferments would solve this, to some extent and I think if a deal is reached, that’s what’s going to happen.

But for now we wait. Players versus owners. I’m on the player’s side myself. I would hope most people would be. It’s incredible to me that the owners definitely colluded to suppress free agent salaries for a few years in the 1980s, and with that knowledge fresh in their minds fans... took the owners’ side in the 1994-1995 strike. The owners of the 1980s are not very different from modern day owners and they would do the same if they could. So with the little platform I have, I hope I can convince at least one person that the players are in the right and the owners are in the wrong, and you should support the players as the owners try to screw them over.