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Last night, in a quite similar fashion to George Harrison’s had-it-ness with Paul McCartney in the Beatles’ final days, the MLBPA told the owners and world that the owners are going to install a season they want anyway, so they might as well get on with it. Not really that much different than George’s, “Okay, well, I don’t mind. I’ll play whatever you want me to play. Or I won’t play at all if you don’t want me to play. Whatever it is that will please you, I’ll do it.”
In the process, they also told the owners that whatever form this mutated and farcical season takes, when rejected by fans for whatever measure, that it will be on the owners. This is their mess. This is what the owners wanted, this is all they’ve been angling for, and now they will deal with the consequences.
It has been clear from the start of these “negotiations” that the owners wanted to simply enforce whatever number of games that would allow them to pay the players a third of their full salaries. When it was the 82-game “sliding scale” model, where the higher-paid players would receive bigger cuts to their salaries, the total was still around 31 percent, or $1.2 billion. When it was a 76-game proposal with 80 percent of the already-promised prorated salaries, it was just about 35 percent. Every other offer has been the same. The owners have made it clear that they’re only going to pay for a third of the season, which is the season-length Commissioner/owners’ stooge Rob Manfred can just enforce according to the March agreement. So now the players are going to call them on it.
Of course, it made for even worse optics for the owners on the day that report leaked that Turner Broadcasting had re-upped their TV deal with MLB for another seven years, which will reportedly see the yearly fee increase some $145 million per year to $450 million annually. The deal will total approximately $3.1 billion over those seven years. It looked something like this.
Did we mention all the money the owners saved on the abbreviated draft that was specifically designed to not go to players? The point of its very existence was to not have to pay players.
And let’s be clear: None of that new TBS money is promised to the players. Almost all of it is for postseason games, which players are not paid for. They get a share of the gate receipts of some playoff games, not all, which obviously has nothing to do with the TV deal. And a share of that money goes to teams that don’t make the playoffs, aren’t even trying to make the playoffs, which only emboldens them to not spend it on players.
All of the owners’ horseshit has been based on the fact that they don’t let the players share in their profits as they’ve ballooned the past few years, but are now asking them to share more in the losses. Capitalism is king when things are good, but when things turn on these rich, withered dicks, suddenly socialism sounds pretty nice to them.
It also needs to be repeated that while the owners are trying to skimp on salaries they already agreed to pay back in March, the players are still the ones taking the risks. The players will have to go through the legion of tests and protocols and worry and play games in places that have simply waved a hand at the coronavirus and the measures that should have been taken. Cases are still on the rise in Florida, Arizona, California, Texas, Washington and Georgia. That’s home to nearly half the teams in the league.
And even if the players are well-protected, which both sides haven’t even agreed on yet, are players just supposed to feel fine about dragging any resource away from people who might need it more in those states?
It should also be restated that you won’t find any of the owners within a 10-mile radius of any park, not without a cattle prod anyway.
So the last thing the players need is to wear whatever comes from playing a joke of a season. No one is going to buy a 50- or 48-game season as anything close to real. It’ll simply be something on TV, no different than a rerun of “Modern Family,” though perhaps even less aware of its surroundings. By throwing their hands up yesterday, the players have made it clear that this is the owners’ problem now.
What’s clear is that this wasn’t about money, at least not entirely. It was about declaring victory. If it was just about the money the owners are losing, they would have opened their books. They didn’t. If it was about wrapping up before a possible second wave of the coronavirus, they would have shown the players evidence of that and why they shouldn’t play when the NBA and NHL and NFL are going to play in October. They didn’t. The players tried to bend and come toward the owners with different offers. The owners kept putting forward this. It was simply about getting yet another one over the union, and setting the groundwork for CBA negotiations for a new deal after the 2021 season.
If baseball can’t recover from whatever vaudeville act the owners come up with for 2020 and the fallout, it’s clear now where the blame will lie.