The Toronto Blue Jays and the rest of the league will play baseball in 2020, but the animosity between MLB and the players is palpable, resulting in long-term issues for the sport.
With the MLB draft completed, the Toronto Blue Jays and the rest of the league can now fully focus on getting a season sorted out. In this respect, the latest news represents a step into territory where games in 2020 are more likely, but the effects of the ongoing contentious negotiations will linger for a long time.
Union executive director Tony Clark released a statement on Saturday, which essentially said the players have given up attempting to agree a deal with the league. As per the MLB players association Twitter account, the statement read:
The reason Clark and the players asked (demanded?) the league tell them when and where to return to work, related to recent comments from deputy commissioner Dan Halem. As per Ronald Blum of The Associated Press, the players were effectively threatened with plans for a shortened season of around 50 games.
The two sides have been back and forth too many times over the number of games which should be played. Ultimately though, we now appear set to have the fewest games in a season since the 1870s, which in some ways sums up how ridiculous this whole situation is.
This is because commissioner Rob Manfred has the power to unilaterally implement the 2020 season. The regular season would begin in mid-July and end on Sept. 27, as the television networks have basically told MLB they do not want to be broadcasting postseason games in November.
Talking of television, this comes in as a factor of why the players association is simultaneously frustrated, resentful and distrustful of the owners’ claims about the amount of money they will lose. As reported by Andrew Marchand of the New York Post, MLB has agreed a new billion-dollar deal with Turner Sports.
As Marchand writes, the deal will increase annually by 40 percent. A better way to give perspective is that the current deal pays the league an average of US $350 billion per year, while the renewal could pay an average of around US $500 million annually through 2028.
This makes St. Louis Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr.’s comments about the baseball industry not being that profitable more asinine. The average MLB team owner has made record profits in recent years but didn’t share the wealth, whereas now the league is hurting, they expect the players to share the burden.
You can criticise the players all you want, but this is without doubt more on the league. They are the reason we are now at this position, even though they are saying they are disappointed the players association have chosen not to negotiate in good faith.
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While the players have attempted to negotiate, why would they do this in good faith? The owners have been asked to open the books to prove their loses, but have been selective in what information they have shared.
One of the ironies of if the players are instructed to return to action by Manfred, is that they would finally get the full prorate salaries they have been fighting for. Of course, in the event of a 50-game season, this means they wouldn’t even get a third of what they were originally entitled to in 2020 before the pandemic hit.
Regardless of how this all concludes, baseball has now entered a stage where the long-term effects could be damaging. Fans have been turned off by the bickering at a time of global financial struggles for the average person and may well decide the game is not worth their money whenever things return to normal. (Or the new normal.)
On top of this, you have to fear for the relationship between the league owners and the players. There is little doubt this will impact negotiations when a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is being discussed, with the existing one set to expire following the 2021 season.
Could this leads to the following campaign being delayed or even cancelled altogether? Anything is possible at this stage.
Baseball took a long time to recover from the strike which ended the season early in 1994 and resulted in the World Series not being played for the first time since 1904. Even two world wars didn’t stop the games, and this time there would be no Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa home run record chase to bring the fans back.
First things first though, you have to hope the two sides — especially the owners — can see some sense and come to an agreement. As per Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the owners have scheduled a conference call on Monday to decide on their next course of action.
Given the way matters have played out so far, there is little reason to have any optimism. It seems almost inevitable Manfred will have to order the 2020 season to be played, which will only increase the animosity further and continue the league down a path which will be tough to recover from.
Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Andrew McCutchen recently tweeted that baseball is dying, a sarcastic response to DeWitt Jr.’s comments about the lack of profits for owners. On some levels though, there may actually be some unintentional truth to what McCutchen said.
How have the negotiations between the owners and players impacted your perspective of MLB? Do you now have less love/time for baseball, or will you be fine once the Toronto Blue Jays start playing games again? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.