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OC Register: Alexander: Will we have a baseball season? It’ll likely come down to money

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I’m sure if he had to do it over again, Blake Snell would have handled the question a little differently last week rather than blurting out, “I’m not playing unless I get mine, OK?”

Yes, we know. The Tampa Bay Rays pitcher was responding to a proposal by Major League Baseball that a previously agreed arrangement for pro-rating player salaries over a short season might be null and void if, as it now appears, there will be no fans in the stands. The view here is that the owners should have thought of that when they made the deal in the first place.

But Snell, in voicing objections – supported by other players, including one Clayton Kershaw  – to a 50-50 revenue split that to players sounds suspiciously like the salary cap concept that the Players Association has fought against from day one, basically made himself the bullseye for every frustrated fan who is convinced that he’d play for free, so why should the players make so much?

(Time out here for clarification: If you were among the 750 best in the world at what you do, even if it’s a vocation associated with the word “play,” you would not work for free. You would bargain for every dollar you could get – or better yet, hire Scott Boras to do it for you – and you know it.)

That said, was Snell wrong? No, if you’re talking about a deal being a deal. But also yes, in applying yesterday’s rules to a workplace, and a world, that is already changing so dramatically that we can’t even begin to imagine with any accuracy what the future will hold.

Monday there was a little clarification from Sacramento for sports in this state. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who had previously been far more pessimistic about sports events returning to California for months to come, said at his daily briefing that sports could come back, without fans and with what he termed as “modifications and very prescriptive conditions,” as early as the first week of June assuming that the state’s progress in dealing with COVID-19 doesn’t take a sudden left turn.

The MLB plan is for a brief training camp starting in mid-June and an 82-game geographically limited schedule beginning in July, in home parks where possible. It comes with a 67-page plan regarding health and safety issues that includes, among other things, no spitting, bench players sitting in the stands to observe social distancing, no mound visits, and regular testing.

How many of these measures are temporary precautions? And how many of the innovations that come out of Pandemic Baseball will be the new normal?

Financially, the players probably should fasten their seat belts. In a depressed economy, with immense job losses and businesses large and small going bankrupt or closing down altogether, the conditions that have enabled both teams and players to prosper in all major professional sports, not just baseball, have ceased to exist.

“With all this, looking at close to 20 percent unemployment and 100,000 small businesses possibly closing, where are (people) going to get the money to be paying for luxury suites and everything else?” asked Gil Fried, chair of the sports management department in the college of business at the University of New Haven. “When people aren’t getting money for their employees and are having a hard time and laying off employees, I think they’re going to have to take a second look at whether or not they want to spend money on sports. So that’s going to affect the bottom line.

“And so players could say, ‘Look, we deserve it. We need to get paid.’ Yeah, you should get paid. But should you be getting paid $15 (million) or $20 million a year? You know, I think it’s going to be a hard argument for them coming forward.”

Especially if the new normal involves fewer people in the seats. We’ve previously discussed polls that have suggested that a good percentage of fans will be very hesitant to return to stadiums and arenas even when fans are allowed, at least until a vaccine is available and in some cases even beyond that. Baseball’s owners have suggested they’ll lose more than $640,000 per game for every time they play with no paying customers, and commissioner Rob Manfred tossed around a figure of $4 million in combined losses for 2020.

It’s worth noting that the sides have a collective bargaining agreement to negotiate before the end of the 2021 season, and will also have new national TV rights deals starting at that point. So keep that in mind when considering those numbers, and also keep in mind the various ways ballclubs can fiddle around with revenue streams.

Still, what happens if they open the gates and lots of seats remain empty? That’s ticket, parking, concessions and merchandise revenue lost.

Beyond that, will corporate partners maintain anything close to their pre-pandemic level of support? And what will advertising rates look like for televised games? The ratings should be enormous, but set ad rates at a high enough point and businesses might balk. (I could see a scenario where PACs and political campaigns buy up most of the air time. A steady stream of political ads on game broadcasts might chase viewers away, no matter how hungry they are for live sports.)

Life is about timing, right? This is a horrible time to become a free agent, as the Dodgers’ Mookie Betts – it’s still strange to type that, by the way – and the Phillies’ J.T. Realmuto are about to find out. It is safe to predict there will be no record contracts given out this winter. And just imagine what’s in store for the second and third tiers of free agents.

But even with the possibility that a free agent market that has been grim the past two offseasons is about to crater, it’s hard to imagine the players ever accepting a revenue split arrangement of any sort for any length of time. Then again, it’s hard to imagine the owners ever opening their books for the players to see exactly where the sport is financially.

Maybe it would take one to achieve the other. Maybe it will require a pandemic to achieve both. But I wouldn’t count on it. Let’s just hope the sides can agree to disagree long enough to just play baseball and give the rest of us a break.

jalexander@scng.com

@Jim_Alexander on Twitter

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The owners and players negotiated these contracts fairly. Whether people are losing their jobs shouldn’t have any impact on what they negotiated. Owners and the leagues will still be getting lots if not more revenue from their television contracts. Players are the ones out their risking their careers due to injury playing. While I don’t think covid will affect any of the players terminally you never know. Players should be and will be getting theirs. 

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14 hours ago, Kevinb said:

The owners and players negotiated these contracts fairly. Whether people are losing their jobs shouldn’t have any impact on what they negotiated. Owners and the leagues will still be getting lots if not more revenue from their television contracts. Players are the ones out their risking their careers due to injury playing. While I don’t think covid will affect any of the players terminally you never know. Players should be and will be getting theirs. 

Are they?  Ive asked this question haven't gotten a complete answer.   Lets say a team has a 100M TV deal... thats for 162 games, not 82... is the network still paying all 100M or only a prorated amount?     
I gotta believe there is language in the TV deals to protect the networks in case of work stoppage or other such occurrence so i highly doubt the team are getting all that money for not playing games. 
We know there wont be fans at least in the beginning so concessions, parking, souvenirs, all that is going to be down.
Where is all this revenue coming from in an 82 game season without fans? 
Honest question i dont know the answer and cant seem to find it.
Dont get me wrong im not suggesting they will go broke or poor or whatever but it wont be business as usual either.   Seems to me a little give and take would have made sense for all.   Use the leverage in the upcoming CBA negotiations... now seems ill timed.

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36 minutes ago, floplag said:

Are they?  Ive asked this question haven't gotten a complete answer.   Lets say a team has a 100M TV deal... thats for 162 games, not 82... is the network still paying all 100M or only a prorated amount?     
I gotta believe there is language in the TV deals to protect the networks in case of work stoppage or other such occurrence so i highly doubt the team are getting all that money for not playing games. 
We know there wont be fans at least in the beginning so concessions, parking, souvenirs, all that is going to be down.
Where is all this revenue coming from in an 82 game season without fans? 
Honest question i dont know the answer and cant seem to find it.
Dont get me wrong im not suggesting they will go broke or poor or whatever but it wont be business as usual either.   Seems to me a little give and take would have made sense for all.   Use the leverage in the upcoming CBA negotiations... now seems ill timed.

I understand all that and understand where the owners are coming from. They should want to make it even. But we know owners lie about the numbers. Also if I was a player I would not want to make any precedent where I am giving back anything. Then what’s next. Ticket sales aren’t the same next year so they have to give back more and where does it stop would be my thinking as a player. With baseball being the last remaining sport with out a “real” salary cap the players are definitely worried the owners are trying to pull a fast one. It’s why I think of all the sports I don’t think baseball plays this year. 

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If they can't reach a deal and play this season, the ramifications will be huge, much like the 94 strike....baseball was more popular in 94 than it is now, though not necessarily more profitable....the effects of the 94 shutdown were real and losing this season because of money has the potential to be worse....

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5 hours ago, Kevinb said:

I understand all that and understand where the owners are coming from. They should want to make it even. But we know owners lie about the numbers. Also if I was a player I would not want to make any precedent where I am giving back anything. Then what’s next. Ticket sales aren’t the same next year so they have to give back more and where does it stop would be my thinking as a player. With baseball being the last remaining sport with out a “real” salary cap the players are definitely worried the owners are trying to pull a fast one. It’s why I think of all the sports I don’t think baseball plays this year. 

I agree we cannot trust the numbers, and traditionally i have always been pro player. 
In rcent years ive found myself wondering though with the dollars that are actually getting handed out when 10 mil becomes an average salary for a player most wouldnt think an upgrade, but i digress
The fact that we cant trust the numbers really doesnt change the issue though.  Its logical and reasonable to expect that whatever they do make., they will make far less this season.   I think we can all agree on that without knowing what the numbers are.  You make an exception for this one season, in good faith... if you want to use it do so in the next CBA... now just seems the wrong time when we all need to get back to feeling something normal to go to war over money. 
We know the owners are greedy bastards... now we also know many of the players are as well.   I dont see anyone with the high ground here. 

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1 hour ago, floplag said:

I agree we cannot trust the numbers, and traditionally i have always been pro player. 
In rcent years ive found myself wondering though with the dollars that are actually getting handed out when 10 mil becomes an average salary for a player most wouldnt think an upgrade, but i digress
The fact that we cant trust the numbers really doesnt change the issue though.  Its logical and reasonable to expect that whatever they do make., they will make far less this season.   I think we can all agree on that without knowing what the numbers are.  You make an exception for this one season, in good faith... if you want to use it do so in the next CBA... now just seems the wrong time when we all need to get back to feeling something normal to go to war over money. 
We know the owners are greedy bastards... now we also know many of the players are as well.   I dont see anyone with the high ground here. 

Neither the owners nor the players are the bad guys in this and I agree there isn't a high ground whether you support the owner or the players. Traditionally fans support the owner because players "take" money to play for another team. At the end of the day it is about business. The players have a finite amount of time to make their money in their given profession while the owners can make their money for a longer period of time. I hope they can come to some agreement to play the season, I miss baseball and I miss sports. Do I think it is likely? No. I think the odds are 70-30 that baseball doesn't get played this year. I think the rest of the sports are more likely 50-50 if not more in favor of playing. But something tells me the baseball union which has notoriously been the strongest of the sports unions is going to hunker down and won't likely budge. I hope I am wrong. 

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Posted (edited)
16 hours ago, Kevinb said:

Neither the owners nor the players are the bad guys in this and I agree there isn't a high ground whether you support the owner or the players. Traditionally fans support the owner because players "take" money to play for another team. At the end of the day it is about business. The players have a finite amount of time to make their money in their given profession while the owners can make their money for a longer period of time. I hope they can come to some agreement to play the season, I miss baseball and I miss sports. Do I think it is likely? No. I think the odds are 70-30 that baseball doesn't get played this year. I think the rest of the sports are more likely 50-50 if not more in favor of playing. But something tells me the baseball union which has notoriously been the strongest of the sports unions is going to hunker down and won't likely budge. I hope I am wrong. 

There will be no winners out of this.  The players will look greedy if they don’t agree to prorated salaries.  The owners will look greedy if they don’t bend to the players stipulations.  The only real losers here (if the abbreviated season doesn’t happen) is the fans.  

Tom Glavine had a pretty good interview yesterday citing his previous reign as a union representative during the player strike of 1994-95.  Paraphrasing, at one point, he said players need to shut their mouths as it relates to the money aspect of this and I agree.  Blake Snell did his fellow players no favors by blurting out his IGM shit, regardless if he thought he was right or not.  If the players want fans to side with them, they should probably cite the “health concerns” side of the argument and concerns for their health as well as their families health.  That’s something that people can relate to.

The owners also need to understand that the players have the right to negotiate what they believe is a fair deal.  No need to run to the media every time a counter proposal is offered.  
 

As a fan, I want baseball to return so bad.  We need sports to return, and slowly it is.  I also want the long term health of the players, staff, and others to be taken into consideration also.  It seems a lot needs to be worked out in the next couple weeks for this to happen or the real losers in this is us, the fans.
 

 

Edited by PattyD22

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If they do play this season, then I believe that players that have pre-existing conditions that don't want to play for health reasons, they should be guaranteed their full prorated salary.  So if Kenley Jansen and his heart condition don’t want to play, the Dodgers should pay him his full prorated salary.  Same could be said of Carrasco and his cancer issues.  

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1 hour ago, Stradling said:

If they do play this season, then I believe that players that have pre-existing conditions that don't want to play for health reasons, they should be guaranteed their full prorated salary.  So if Kenley Jansen and his heart condition don’t want to play, the Dodgers should pay him his full prorated salary.  Same could be said of Carrasco and his cancer issues.  

This may very well be one of the sticking points to the agreement, and it’s a very valid one at that.

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2 hours ago, Stradling said:

If they do play this season, then I believe that players that have pre-existing conditions that don't want to play for health reasons, they should be guaranteed their full prorated salary.  So if Kenley Jansen and his heart condition don’t want to play, the Dodgers should pay him his full prorated salary.  Same could be said of Carrasco and his cancer issues.  

But the article clearly states that prorated as of now wont happen. So how are these pre existing conditions going to get prorated salaries but the players who actually play the sport don't get prorated salaries? I don't think that's going to work. 

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On 5/19/2020 at 9:04 AM, Kevinb said:

But we know owners lie about the numbers. 

Report Tax Fraud

We don't take tax law violation referrals over the phone. Use Form 3949-A, Information Referral (PDF)if you suspect an individual or a business is not complying with the tax laws. Don’t use this form if you want to report a tax preparer or an abusive tax scheme.

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4 hours ago, PattyD22 said:

There will be no winners out of this.  The players will look greedy if they don’t agree to prorated salaries.  The owners will look greedy if they don’t bend to the players stipulations.  The only real losers here (if the abbreviated season doesn’t happen) is the fans.  

Tom Glavine had a pretty good interview yesterday citing his previous reign as a union representative during the player strike of 1994-95.  Paraphrasing, at one point, he said players need to shut their mouths as it relates to the money aspect of this and I agree.  Blake Snell did his fellow players no favors by blurting out his IGM shit, regardless if he thought he was right or not.  If the players want fans to side with them, they should probably cite the “health concerns” side of the argument and concerns for their health as well as their families health.  That’s something that people can relate to.

The owners also need to understand that the players have the right to negotiate what they believe is a fair deal.  No need to run to the media every time a counter proposal is offered.  
 

As a fan, I want baseball to return so bad.  We need sports to return, and slowly it is.  I also want the long term health of the players, staff, and others to be taken into consideration also.  It seems a lot needs to be worked out in the next couple weeks for this to happen or the real losers in this is us, the fans.
 

 

It's funny how fans always support the billionaires because they're jealous of the millionaires.

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1 hour ago, RendZone said:

Report Tax Fraud

We don't take tax law violation referrals over the phone. Use Form 3949-A, Information Referral (PDF)if you suspect an individual or a business is not complying with the tax laws. Don’t use this form if you want to report a tax preparer or an abusive tax scheme.

Weird? Why would I care if the owners lie about the numbers. Look at the articles about the Florida/Miami Marlins. They can make profits look like losses. I don't know of any sports franchise owner who has opened his books so the public can see how much they are making/losing. I just know what you hear about how these owners are continually losing money. Yet whenever a franchise gets put on the market they get bought up in seconds. 

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1 hour ago, Kevinb said:

 I don't know of any sports franchise owner who has opened his books so the public can see how much they are making/losing.

The Green Bay Packers 

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2 hours ago, Randy Gradishar said:

It's funny how fans always support the billionaires because they're jealous of the millionaires.

Nope. 

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3 hours ago, Randy Gradishar said:

It's funny how fans always support the billionaires because they're jealous of the millionaires.

Yeah I’m not following that either Randy.  I said no one will win and the fans are the ones who will lose.  I don’t support either side.  I’m on the fans side.

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