When Are We Going to Start Blaming the MLB Owners?

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As each day passes by this summer, it feels more and more likely that we will not have a Major League Baseball season.  There has been a debate going on for weeks on who’s fault it is as to why the MLB owners and the MLBPA haven’t come to an agreement on how players will be paid for this unusual season.  The fan narrative to the players is to take whatever money the owners are willing to pay and get out on the diamond and play a kids game for our entertainment.  It’s easy to blame the players, they haven’t come across exactly likable during the delayed start of the season. 

Photo courtesy of draftkingsnation.com

We’ve all heard the comments from Tampa Bay Rays’ ace Blake Snell on his live Twitch feed. “Bro, I’m risking my life . . . What do you mean it should not be a thing?  It should 100% be a thing.  If I’m gonna play, I should be getting the money I signed to be getting paid.  I should not be getting half of what I’m getting paid because the season’s cut in half, on top of a 33% cut of the half that’s already there — so I’m really getting, like, 25%” said Snell. 

“Y’all gotta understand, man, for me to go, for me to take a pay cut is not happening, because the risk is through the roof, it’s a shorter season, less pay . . . I gotta get my money.  I’m not playing unless I get mine, okay?  And that’s just the way it is for me.  Like, I’m sorry you guys think differently, but the risk is way the hell higher and the amount of money I’m making is way lower, why would I think about doing that?  Like you know, I’m just, I’m sorry”, Snell would follow up with on his Twitch channel. 

When listening to the audio a few weeks ago, he comes across as sounding greedy and disconnected especially when there are millions of American’s out of a job due to COVID-19.  However, if we peel back the onion some on his words and not quickly react to them and try and look at his point of view, is he right? 

Other players in Major League Baseball have come out and backed up what Snell said, including Phillies slugger Bryce Harper.  “He ain’t lying. He’s speaking the truth, bro,” Harper said.  “I ain’t mad at him.  Somebody’s gotta say it, at least he manned up and said it.  Good for him.  I love Snell, the guy’s a beast.  One of the best lefties in the game.”

Rockies All-Star third basemen Nolan Arenado would chime in and add to The Athletic, "I think he was being honest, just being real," said Arenado, who is on an eight-year contract worth $260 million.  "There are some points he made that were true, that are facts.  A lot of it gets misperceived.  Trying to get the public to understand us, it’s not going to work very well in our favor.”

It’s easy from a fans perspective and read those comments and get instantly angry because they’re being paid millions of dollars to play baseball.  These players have made the owners in Major League Baseball billionaires from what they do on the diamond.  I am tired of hearing people make the comparisons of the salaries of a Major League Baseball player and the average person, they don’t equate.  The professional athlete, whether we like it or not, are highly compensated because like the owners who run these businesses or teams, the players too are a brand and a business and deserve to be paid appropriately. 

I am completely realistic to the fact that with a shortened season the players should not be paid the full salaries due to lost league revenue, lost concessions and money at the gates for the these teams.  I get it.  However a few months ago, the MLB owners and MLBPA agreed to a 50-50 proposal upon returning to play this season.  The owners now want to go back on that and adjust it once again because they’re saying they’ll still lose money if they pay players based off that agreement. 

The players and owners have never used a revenue split so when they agreed to do this we all should have seen the potential for it to fall apart.  In labor negotiations precedent does matter especially with a very fluid and ever changing climate due to COVID.  How does the league determine revenue?  Will it be ticket sales?  Based on decisions by the local governments in the country the odds any stadium or arena will have fans are slim.  Will players get any of the revenue from concessions or the businesses owned by the owners surrounding their ballparks?   Some of the infrastructure surrounding Wrigley Field is owned by Thomas Ricketts, who owns the Chicago Cubs, does revenue from those businesses go towards the revenue split? 

I am not going to pretend I am a labor expert because I am not, this whole matter is a complicated mess.  However, it is time we stop blaming the players and start putting some of this back on the billionaire owners.  These owners are racking up money hand over fist because we the fans want to see the product and our favorite players.  The players performance is rewarded with millions upon millions of dollars.  The owners make the decision to pay these players this kind of loot.  The Angels are paying Mike Trout $430 million dollars to keep him in Los Angeles for his entire career. 

Major League Baseball owners claim they will lose $4 BILLION dollars which was then echoed by Commissioner Rob Manfred.  Is the league actually losing $4 billion?  I guess depending on how you determine the way revenue is interpreted by the league.  The league has spit out numbers that teams could lose, in fact, the Boston Red Sox say that they expect to lose $199 million in gate receipts with no fans or a canceled season.  That number is based on a Forbes article indicating what the Red Sox made last season for their home games played at Fenway Park. 

I am just sick of the owners getting a free pass and crying poverty over inability to come to an agreement with the MLBPA to get this season started.  The NBA, NHL and NFL seem to have their own houses in order yet Manfred and his league seem to be in their own way with different proposals every week on the length of the season and potential money. 

Snell and the players aren’t budging on salary reductions, and honestly they shouldn’t.  Nationals righty Max Scherzer took to Twitter on May 27, 2020 to defend that stance by 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.” 

That tweet from Scherzer is powerful and sums up the state of the sport.  These players shouldn’t have to accept another pay cut and if they do, the league needs to open up the books and show the players where they truly stand.  That won’t happen, and if this trend continues neither will a baseball season. 

There are some owners who prefer not having a season and that is disgusting.  The owners need to answer some questions if they want the players to take another pay decrease in order for this season to be played.  The league has about a week or so to come to an agreement in order to get this season started in July, because if we go into mid-June with no agreement both the players and owners have struck out and the game will be over. 

The country needs sports to be an escape from what has been a very hard and long year.  There have been numerous ups and downs from the death of Kobe Bryant, the global pandemic of the coronavirus, the shutdown of sports, millions of people across the country out of work and on unemployment and now the disgusting death of George Floyd at the hands of police brutality in Minneapolis.  We need a way to escape, we need a way to begin to come together again.  It just feels like MLB owners and the MLBPA can’t seem to come to an agreement and this year will continue to bring more disappointment. 



Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisHenrique

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Boston Sports Syndicate: When Are We Going to Start Blaming the MLB Owners?
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