The Rundown: Players Disappointed with Financial Proposal, Maddon Admits Biggest Mistake of ’16 Series, A’s Will Stop Paying Minor Leaguers

If you see the glass as half full, you’re of the mindset that the owners and players will work out some type of financial agreement that allows baseball to resume its 2020 season. If you sit on the opposite side of that idiom, then you are likely inclined to believe there will be no baseball this year and that negotiations ahead of the next CBA, which expires following the 2021 season, will be pretty contentious.

Another way to approach what has become a fiasco of sorts and PR nightmare for the game is to give zero you-know-whats and move on. In my lifetime, no professional sport has had more labor discord than Major League Baseball. Sure, things have been pretty peaceful since 1994, but it seems as if the owners still have a bug up their butts about being forced to give up the reserve clause in 1975. The Steinbrenner family is the only principal ownership group remaining since then, having purchased the Yankees in 1973, but that doesn’t matter.

In my eyes, baseball is no longer shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. What we have here is yet another labor war, one that has been brewing for a couple years and that is leaning on a widespread contagion for leverage. Brewers’ owner Mark Attanasio broke it down from the owners’ perspective in today’s Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. I do not have a digital subscription, so I’ll paraphrase from the actual newspaper I bought earlier this morning.

“The [baseball] industry had approximately $9.4 billion in revenue [in 2019], so for a round number let’s say it’s $10 billion,” Attanasio explained.

“If we only play half a season, that revenue is only $5 billion. And 40 percent of that revenue is live-gate-related so if you play without fans, you take away $2 billion and now you’re down to $3 billion.So very quickly, you go from $10 billion to $5 billion for a half-season and, with no fans, only 60 percent and that’s what you’ve got. If we play without fans, that 40 percent is off the table. The challenge of staging these games from an economic standpoint is real.”

You almost feel sorry for the guy. What he fails to mention is that those are annual revenues, not some type of passbook savings account at a local bank that is earning a point or two in annual interest. The bottom line is that the owners are refusing to take any kind of a financial hit, even for one year and even if it alienates fans. Watching this play out is like watching an episode of Showtime’s Billions. It’s a win-at-all-cost negotiation, or, to quote the show’s main character, Bobby Axelrod: “What’s the point of having fuck-you money if you can’t say, ‘Fuck you?’”

Total player salaries for a full 2020 season, not including bonuses, are approximately $3.65 billion according to my calculations. The players have already agreed to a 50% pay cut, so that drops the total obligation to $1.8 billion and change. Using Attanasio’s math above, owners would still profit if they agreed to honor the original deal, but the margins ($1.2 billion) are much smaller. Granted, my math is crude and raw, but, again, owners are clearing $6-7 billion annually. Reduced margins for a single season hardly seems like much of a sacrifice when 25% of the country has filed for unemployment and tens of thousands of small businesses are likely to be rendered insolvent.

Perhaps a compromise will be reached that allows a partial season to start during the first week of July. At this juncture, do we still care?

Cubs News & Notes

Find Your Inner Hero

Banned Substances Control Group, a leading international third-party certification and testing provider, has joined forces with Support Clean Sport, a grassroots clean sport initiative of public charity Anti-Doping Research, to deliver financial assistance to amateur athletes in need during the pandemic. The organizations have recently introduced Aid for Athletes from Support Clean Sport and are calling on others to donate to the worthy cause .

Odds & Sods

A’s owner John J. Fisher has a net worth of  approximately $2 billion, yet the organization has decided that they can no longer pay their minor league players $400 per week. This is a ludicrous decision.

Apropos of Nothing

It may be true that if you have to ask how much something costs then you can’t afford it, but if money is no object you can get yourself a flux capacitor.

MLB News & Notes

MLB’s economic proposal to start the season was a major disappointment and would hit the game’s star players the hardest.

The players are said to be “livid” with the owners proposal according to Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic (subscriber content).

Cardinals reliever Andrew Miller expressed a great deal of displeasure with the owners.

Broadcast networks are considering pumping in fake noise for games played in empty stadiums. I find that as hilarious as the idea of using robotic mannequin fans to fill the seats.

Sports fans said they’d prefer natural sounds over pumped-in fake crowd noises.

Rays starter Blake Snell has retained Scott Boras as his new agent. The switch from his old agency came not long after Snell said on a Twitch stream that he wasn’t in favor of MLB players taking another pay cut to return to play in a shortened season.

Houston manager Dusty Baker believes the Astros are the team to beat in 2020.

Extra Innings

Not only are the A’s refusing too broke to pay their minor leaguers, they also are refusing to pay can’t make rent this year. Hey, times are tough, so maybe start a GoFundMe. I just have one question before putting this to rest. Wouldn’t it make sense for a team, especially one that plays in a city prone to major earthquakes, have some type of insurance policy in place in case scheduled games are canceled?

They Said It

  • “We want to play baseball. This pandemic is going to have a profound impact on all of us. Players are willing to make sacrifices and surely will to get back on the field. However, we will not sacrifice our principles or the future generations of players to do so. While I’m disappointed in where MLB is starting the discussion, if this is truly about getting the game to our fans, I have confidence we will find common ground. I know that our players will do their part.” – Andrew Miller
  • “We’ll have to see how it goes but we’d definitely like to see baseball back. We’d like to see the team back on the field. I know the players want to play, I know the manager wants to manage, and I know even if it’s on television only, I think people want to see baseball back.” – Tom Ricketts

Wednesday Walk Up Song

Take the Money and Run by The Steve Miller Band. Owners united to disrupt the game is nothing new.

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