There’s likely to be NHL hockey and NBA basketball played this summer, along with NASCAR races, soccer and golf. But America’s usual summer pastime, baseball, seems to have more hurdles to clear to avoid missing out on the much-ballyhooed return of sports.
The Major League Baseball Players’ Association has made clear it will reject the league’s latest financial proposal, and the union is expected to offer its counterproposal by week’s end.
What hangs in the balance: Whether the 2020 baseball season will be played starting around July 4 weekend as tentatively planned — or, more to the point, played at all.
Washington Nationals star pitcher Max Scherzer delivered the latest blow in the two sides’ back and forth when he sent a tweet late Wednesday night that quickly went viral. Scherzer, the Nationals’ player rep and one of eight members of the MLBPA executive committee, wrote that the players decided there’s “no reason” to negotiate with owners on a so-called second pay cut.
On March 26, players and owners reached an agreement for players’ 2020 salaries to be prorated for whatever number of games MLB ends up playing — the first pay cut. Owners believe their agreement allows for renegotiation because of the likelihood that games will have to be played in empty stadiums and ticket revenue would be lost. Commissioner Rob Manfred has said that 40% of MLB’s revenue is related to the gate.
“After discussing the latest developments with the rest of the players there’s no reason to engage with MLB in any further compensation reductions,” Scherzer wrote. “We have previously negotiated a pay cut in the version of prorated salaries, and there’s no justification to accept a 2nd pay cut based on the current information the union has received.
“I’m glad to hear other players voicing the same viewpoint and believe MLB’s economic strategy would completely change if all documentation were to become public information,” he continued.
With a salary of $35.9 million, Scherzer was set to be the third-highest paid player in MLB in 2020, behind only Mike Trout and Gerrit Cole. The league’s proposal gives the highest-paid players the largest cuts; ESPN reported that in the latest proposal, Trout would make just $6 million in 2020, but if they stuck with the single prorated cut, he’d stand to make $19 million.
Agent Scott Boras weighed in by writing to his 71 major-league clients that the players should not agree to “bail out” the owners by agreeing to the financial proposal, arguing that “games cannot be played without” players’ cooperation.
“Let owners take some of their record revenues and profits from the past several years and pay you the prorated salaries you agreed to accept or let them borrow against the asset values they created from the use of those profits players generated,” Boras wrote in an email obtained by the Associated Press.
Salaries were set to range from $563,500 for players at the major league minimum to $36 million for Mike Trout and Gerrit Cole, the latter a Boras client. Under the March agreement, the range would be cut to roughly $285,000 to $18 million for the 82-game regular season MLB has proposed. Under the economic proposal made by MLB this week, the range would be reduced to about $262,000 to $8 million, including shares of a bonus all players would receive if the postseason is played.
“Owners are asking for more salary cuts to bail them out of the investment decisions they have made,” Boras wrote. “If this was just about baseball, playing games would give the owners enough money to pay the players their full prorated salaries and run the baseball organization. The owners’ current problem is a result of the money they borrowed when they purchased their franchises, renovated their stadiums or developed land around their ballparks.
“These billionaires want the money for free,” he added. “No bank would do that. Banks demand loans be repaid with interest. Players should be entitled to the same respect.”
Not everyone received Boras’ message well. Cincinnati Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer, not one of Boras’ clients, tweeted that the agent should “keep (his) damn personal agenda out of union business.”
But the majority of the players were on Scherzer’s and Boras’ side this week — “livid” with the league’s offer, according to The Athletic. Reports said that in the players’ counterproposal, they plan to include an increase from the league’s proposed 82-game schedule to roughly 100 games to make more money.
Scherzer is not known for having much of a presence on social media — it was just his fourth tweet since the start of 2019 — making his sudden public message on the matter more eye-catching.
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