The MLB COVID-19 debacle

Photo by Chris Carlson/AP Photo

Major League Baseball is not solely at a standstill with COVID-19. 

They are also at a standstill with themselves. 

MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), through the months of baseball hiatus, have talked about logistical, financial and medical paths that could be taken to begin the 2020 season. Most recently, MLB brought forth a 67-page proposal detailing health and safety protocols should the season begin. 

Given the mystery surrounding the virus currently without a vaccine, MLB has looked into the health aspects of not only starting a season, but maintaining it. 

However, like any other major sport attempting to jump-start, restart or resume a season, the million-dollar question remains. 

Money. The almighty dollar. The salaries that players support themselves and family. How is it handled?

To alleviate the concern of salaries not being played and to get players back onto the diamond, MLB owners approved a revenue-sharing plan with the players that would see 50% of the revenue go to the players. A significant amount, considering other major sports (including the NFL and NBA) see less than half of all revenue go to the players. Additional talks regarding service time and specific salaries for players have been discussed. 

No concrete agreement has been set regarding the 50/50 revenue deal, as it has not been approved and is expected to be denied by the MLBPA. With MLB being unique in that there is no salary cap, revenue has never been tied to salaries for the players, and while prorated salaries have been agreed to, players feel that the owners are still asking for too much even though players could be playing in harmful conditions and with less pay while playing. 

Starting pitcher Blake Snell has been one of the key critics of the owners. After doubling down on his comments, along with other players agreeing with his sentiments, the reason for concern from the player’s perspective is legitimate. 

However, the proposals by owners and the negative reactions by players has created an entrenched standoff between both parties. With no sides giving ground to the other, there is reason for concern that, while a season could happen, the relationship between the owners and the MLBPA could be severely strained. 

Perhaps so strained that, worst-case, a season could not happen at all. The 1994 strike rings a bell. While half of a season was wiped away in 1994, an entire season could be in 2020. 

For MLB owners and players alike, it could prove to be critical that some middle ground is found between the two. Without it, all that MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has been working for in regard to expanding the audience baseball is trying to attain could be for naught. Fans still distraught over 1994 could be completely turned off from the game. Potentially newer and younger fans would show disinterest as there wouldn’t be any games to watch in the first place. 

Owners need revenue to maintain a healthy pipeline to maintain their franchises. Players need their salary to maintain their families, and to make sure they get paid what the paper and ink said when they signed it. 

The solution? Hard to tell. Whether from starting the season, splitting the revenue, guaranteeing player safety or guaranteeing players get paid, the problems are plentiful. 

One thing is for certain, though. 

Something doesn’t have to be done. 

Something needs to be done.

Both sides remaining steadfast in their wants and needs will keep the status quo to what it is right now, which means no baseball and no revenue and even salary at all.

Owners and players must find middle ground, and quick. 

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