“You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” Rahm Emanuel
Put aside your individual political leanings for at least the duration of this column, and take that quote at face value, rather than dismiss or accept it based on who said it. This may not be the most palatable utterance but if you’re honest, you know it’s true, it’s damn true.
That’s why disaster bills are filled with pork and earmarks, the urgency to get the needed action done lowers the depth heels are dug in and principals flutter off into the wind.
So why would MLB be different? News broke yesterday that Tony Clark, the Players Union chief had put out a statement that negotiating reduction to pay for players should games be played without fans was done. This is key so let’s make sure we get it 100% accurate. “Players recently reached an agreement with Major League Baseball that outlines economic terms for resumption of play, which included significant salary adjustments and a number of other compromises. That negotiation is over,” Clark Said.
At first, I thought of this as a death nail for baseball being played this season. Then I started listening to the conversation on last night’s live Bucs In The Basement Podcast as Chris and Craig were discussing the news, that very quote up there popped into my head, and then there it was, Chris uttered a variation of it as well.
As baseball has negotiated the eventual or theoretical restart of the season, Mr. Clark is not alone in trying to make the most of the opportunity. Here’s a short list of Mr. Manfred’s proposals for restarting the game:
1. DH – Now (Another “speed of play” wish list item)
2. Doubleheaders with 7 inning games (shortening the game significantly, for “speed of play”)
3. Shrinking the draft (effectively eliminating the need for his previously targeted 40 some odd MiLB teams)
I’m sure there are more, these ones are just obvious. The Players union used it to potentially get expanded rosters.
That was the first round of “negotiations”, I quote that because it didn’t feel like there was all that much give and take. Now we have reached the next stage, and players feel they have the owners in a position to push back themselves. The biggest thing for the players is to lose only as much pay as the number of games lost dictates. They want to hear nothing of a pay reduction based on the ability to have fans or not. If Rob Manfred is to be believed, and that’s a tall ask for some of us, baseball teams accrue nearly 40% of their revenue from the gate and gate related activities. The players have already pushed back on that by expressing that none of that speaks to the reduced expenses the teams would incur.
Adding a wrinkle to all of this is the looming CBA negotiation as the current deal expires in 2021. Much of what we see in this restart the game talk is posturing and scoring victories to carry with them into the next, arguably more meaningful talks. For instance, Rob Manfred by getting the players to “be ok” with shortened games in doubleheaders today, could be used to say why aren’t you ok with it now when they sit down for the next round. The players and Mr. Clark know that if they don’t play the owners have nothing, meaning they know who has the real power right this second.
Just as your daily life changes due to evolving CDC guidance and new restrictions from your government officials, so too will this situation change. The players are right, as of now they do have power and a legitimate argument that it is dangerous to play the game for them and the communities it may be played in. This will change. Dominoes will start to fall.
As more of the country finds its way to some semblance of open for business, the player’s argument will become shallower. The leverage of the CBA hanging over the entire thing is a tool both are using and in my opinion a miscalculation in the long run.
A suffering country, filled to the brim with people of all types enduring devastation economically on a scale none of us have ever seen, is going to have a very short fuse for the infighting of Millionaires (real or perceived) vs Billionaires (again, real or perceived).
That’s not to say, “baseball will be back, chill”. I’m simply saying if either side of this thinks the American people will lose the 2020 season and face a work stoppage from either side in 2021 without permanently harming the game, I’ve got a feeling there will be a whole new reason for falling salaries coming at them.