Blog: The MLBA-MLBPA 2020 Season Negotiations Have Turned Zoological

There’s no other way to put it: the negotiations between MLB and the MLB Players’ Associations has turned into a giant mess.

It didn’t have to turn into this either. It didn’t have to turn into this if both sides trusted each other, and both sides accepted from the onset the reality that the 2020 season, no matter what form it would be in, would be a loss from a financial standpoint. But that doesn’t matter anymore. We now have one big battle taking place, one between billionaire owners and millionaire ballplayers. And it’s one that very few people want to see at the moment.

With unemployment figures at near record-high numbers, you would think that both sides would realize that very few in the United States would want to see a nasty and public feud over money. But that’s hardly the case, as owners have stated that if they pay the players their fully-allotted prorated salaries (assuming an 82 game season), owners will incur losses up to $640,000 per game. Also, around 89% of the estimated revenue generated by the league this season would go to the players if the teams do pay their players full prorated salaries. Because of this, owners want significant cuts to player expenses for 2020.

So far, the MLBPA has balked at any attempt to reduce players salaries. Rays pitcher Blake Snell and Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper both said earlier this month that they want to see players receive their full prorated salaries. The Players Association was reportedly ‘livid’ when the owners proposed a sliding pay cuts earlier this week. And last night, Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer threw gasoline on a three-alarm fire when he sent out a tweet stating that the PA remains adamant in its quest to ensure that all players receive their fully-allotted prorated salary. Scherzer also stated that the league’s economic strategy would “completely change if all documentation were to become public information.” If you thought that these negotiations would be clean, you were clearly wrong.

While it’s perfectly understandable that both sides want the best deal possible, the reality is that the perfect deal in this instance is not possible. The perfect deal would be to start a full 162 game season with fans in the seats. That would make owners happy, and the idea of cutting player expenses wouldn’t even be considered. But considering what’s going on in the outside world right now, that idea is just not possible.

Because of this new reality, both sides need to negotiate terms of play, and so far, the rhetoric has been ugly. No baseball fan wants to hear that the season may be canceled, but what will the reaction be if 2020 is wiped out due to finances, and not just because of the coronavirus? The last time a season did not have a conclusion was 1994, and the aftermath of that strike was startling. Fans tuned out of baseball in droves, and many consumers decided not to spend money on tickets to watch players they perceived to be greedy. What will the reaction be if the season is canceled at a time when baseball could be used to heal a reeling country? Given what the reaction was to Snell’s comments from earlier this month, my guess is that it won’t be a positive one by any means.

There’s a lot on the line here, and what happens over the next few days will impact not just 2020, but 2021 and beyond. Will fans, if allowed, head to ballparks in 2021, or will they be turned off just like many were in 1994? What effect will an agreement have on the upcoming CBA negotiations? A lot needs to be considered, but it would be nice if the negotiations and rhetoric stayed private. Doing that might be tough in the era of social media, but the reality is that perception matters. Both sides, If they don’t already, need to understand this.

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