Impasse between MLB and MLBPA continues

(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Spread the love

Against a backstop of protests across the country, even the world, in reaction to the death of yet another African American man, this time George Floyd, at the hands of a white policeman, the fate of baseball this season seems much less important. However, sports can preoccupy us and provide welcome relief from grief and anger and fear — if just for a few hours.

Because baseball and other sports blend a variety of colors and ethnicities, they showcase people of different hues working together for the common good.

Of course, Major League Baseball did not integrate until 1947 when Jackie Robinson took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Branch Rickey selected Robinson for several reasons, including his strength of character and willingness to withstand the inevitable jeers, humiliations, and the outright danger he would face.

The percentage of African Americans in the grand old game grew until the early 1970s and peaked at 19 percent but has decreased to 7.7 percent by 2018.  However, the number of Latino players has reached a high of 31.9 percent.

Multiple players have spoken out against racism and police brutality.  Some, like Touki Toussaint (Atlanta Braves) and Sean Doolittle (Washington Nationals), took to the streets.  Others have used social media to support the Black Lives Matter movement, including Braden Bishop (Seattle Mariners), Taijuan Walker (Mariners), Andrew McCutchen (Philadelphia Phillies), Byron Buxton (Minnesota Twins), Bo Bichette (Toronto Blue Jays), Jake Diekman (Oakland Athletics), Bryce Harper (Philadelphia Phillies), and Marcus Stroman (New York Mets), as well as Padres’ minor leaguer Taylor Trammell.

Unfortunately, a spirit of cooperation and shared purpose has not characterized the negotiations between Major League Baseball, represented by Commissioner Rob Manfred, and the Major League Players Association. According to the latest reports, the owners have reduced their expectations to a 48-game season, while the players’ union continues to support an 82-game season.

The disagreement comes down to money. Fewer games mean lower revenue, as does the original plan to play in ballparks with no spectators. But at least one state, Texas, may allow fans to attend games, which further muddies the waters.

While owners contend they will lose as much as $640,000 a game, the players dispute that estimate.  MLB has indicated a willingness to lose approximately $460 million in total if the MLPA agrees to a season of 48 games. So far, the union has refused to take an additional pay cut in the event they agree to the number of games.

The contentious nature of the impasse highlights the state of the relationship of the MLBPA to Manfred and the owners he represents.  The National Basketball Association, which has a more harmonious relationship with commissioner Adam Silver, has come to tentative agreement to resume games on July 31. The National Football League, the National Women’s Soccer League, and Major League Soccer have all made tentative plans to begin play.

Early on in the Coronavirus shut down, it appeared that baseball would be the first sport to return to the field. At first, health concerns slowed down negotiations, but those have taken a back seat to the almighty dollar. Players who earn hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars have far less incentive to risk their health and that of their families, than those on the front lines like health care workers or people who need every dollar for basic living expenses.

Fans, stuck in limbo and facing difficult choices between staying healthy and paying the rent, will be turned off if the impasse between MLB and the players union continues. The sport has seen a decline in attendance in recent years, and mud wrestling over money will further alienate aficionados of the game. In a letter in the shrunken sports section of the Los Angeles Times, Saturday morning Kevin O’Bar of Santa Barbara spoke for many fans.

It looks like COVID-19 could be claiming another victim with a preexisting condition.  The condition is green. The Victim is Major League Baseball.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 has not magically disappeared in this country. Instead, the increase in testing nationwide has led to a rise in reported daily cases of Covid-19. By the end of May, the United States surpassed a staggering total of 100,000 deaths. Since states have enacted different methods of dealing with the virus from orders for most people to shelter in place to a more business-as-usual approach, the location of games could also become an issue. Agreements on travel, accommodations, testing have not been reached either.

In August 1994, baseball players went on strike and did not return to the field for 232 days.  The disagreement then came down to money and led to years of enmity between the union and the players.  Fans reacted then as now with disgust over greed in the game they had loved. Disagreement over health risks resonates with Americans facing their private dilemmas. However, billionaires facing off against millionaires just leads to disgust that could affect baseball for years to come.

Baseball owners, as well as players need to look outside their narrow worlds to human beings suffering from illness, police brutality, and unemployment (42 million have filed for benefits in the last three months). However, the onus falls to the owners whose teams range in value from $5 billion for the New York Yankees to $980 million for the Miami Marlins (the only team measured in millions rather than billions).

After all, the players and their support staff will be taking the risks. They should be paid accordingly.

7 thoughts on “Impasse between MLB and MLBPA continues

  1. “When” the season begins, how many of us are going to be enthused and excited? I’m already upset that the Padres abandoned beautiful navy blue for ugly brown but I also know I am in the minority on that. But this was going to be the year when AJ Preller – my least favorite GM, was going to sink or swim on all his personnel decisions. Now it’s been so long, can any of us remember all the moves he made? Didn’t Preller get rid of two of my favorite players; Jankowski and Renfroe? I think both men are better than what Preller is going to replace them with. Wasn’t he about to get rid of another favorite; Austin Hedges too? But now that it’s mid June, do I even care now? Greedy owners and fat cat and “entitled” players will do that to you, or at least to me.

    1. Hello Gary,
      We have to agree to disagree about the uniforms, as I want the Padres to stick with brown which sets them apart.
      Preller most definitely got a reprieve. Also, we’re missing one of the most anticipated seasons in years. I agree completely about Jankowski and Hedges, but we’re undoubtedly in the minority.
      All in all, “greedy owners and fat cat “entitled” players says it all.

  2. MLB and its players are blowing it with the world’s baseball fans. Just when we really need you to begin play after all of the fake news about the severity of the pandemic, the TV Show of pre-planned riots, you all in baseball fail us. Remember after 911 when baseball restarted and soothed the nation. That is needed now, not a bunch of rich guys quibbling over something they will easily recover. Sad. Where is your soul?

    1. Hi MC,
      I certainly agree about MLB and players blowing it, although much more of the blame lies with the owners I think. Where’s the love of the game? When it all comes down to the almighty dollar it will just hurt the sport.
      However, you might want to check with the families of the 112,000 people who have died from Covid-19 and see if they consider it fake news.

  3. MLB and its players are blowing it with the fans. Just when we (USA baseball fans) really need you to begin play after all of the fake news about the severity of the pandemic, the TV Show of pre-planned riots, you all in baseball fail us. Remember after 911 when baseball restarted and soothes the nation. Sad.

  4. There’s nothing wrong with baseball that firing the commissioner, replacing half the owners and voiding the 2017 World Series results couldn’t begin to cure. The NBA, NFL and NHL all seem to be able to find competent commissioners. Yet MLB routinely selects commissioners so dumb they need GPS to find the men’s room.
    At least we aren’t being subjected to the usual blowhard blather from Ron Fowler we normally receive at this time of year.

    1. Hi there Tom,
      I can’t help but share your impatience with the whole of baseball, and your solutions make sense to me, especially voiding the 2017 World Series. I have long suspected that Rob Manfred doesn’t really like baseball at all.
      As for Ron Fowler, I think he should think before he blathers on. However, he actually really cares and is as impatient as most of the rest of us about the Padres lack of success.
      Take care,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *