Balls and Streich(s):
By Brandon Streich
As a baseball fan, not only is it depressing not having any local baseball games. Whether it be youth, VFW, Legion, or Amateur ball. But, to not be able to watch the Twins this year is agonizing. Especially with all of the optimism and hype surrounding the team after last year’s record breaking season. The Twins went and grabbed stud third basemen Josh Donaldson to add to their already powerful lineup and things were looking good. Then COVID-19 threw a wrench into those plans.
Now, as I wake up early in the mornings, the Korean Leagues are being shown on ESPN. Now, they can play in Korea but not in the US? The MLB and the MLBPA cannot come to an agreement on playing. It is the owners against the players in a public negotiation. It has grown into a tired narrative. Many fans are to the point where they almost do not care if there is no season. Can you believe that? MLB had a prime opportunity to become the center stage in sports. No other major sports to compete with in the country. Meanwhile, NBA, NHL, UFC, NASCAR, etc have all laid out plans and/or already returned. NASCAR first allowed fans this weekend in Florida and plan to allow fans in Alabama in the coming weeks.
The fact MLB has not come to an agreement with the players association is a flat out embarrasment. They blew it. Big time. The way it stands right now is that the differences in agreements are so large that I believe there is more good will between a snake and a mongoose. And we, the fans, are the mouse that will get eaten by both of them. Sure, in an agreement the owners or players will be “winners” or “losers”, but the fans are the big losers here.
Months upon months or arguing and the owners low balling the players with various “counters” has seemed to hit a final impasse. The players association entirely fed up, said Saturday night, “tell us when and where.” Basically saying any negotiations would be futile.
Now, I am not taking sides in the owners vs players argument. However, in a 12-page document it was stated that playing without fans would cost an MLB team roughly $640,000 per game. This was with a projected 82-game season. For the Colorado Rockies for example, this would cost the team $134 million. Now, like any other business, MLB spends money on more than just player salaries. Think, groundkeeping materials, vendors, stadium maintenance, scouts, etc. In 2019, MLB teams averaged 39% revenue on local gate. Central revenue, local media, and sponsorship filled in the rest.
Back to the players side, since the MLB owners are private entities, they do not have revenue sharing obligations like other leagues such as the NFL, NBA, etc do. For the players, it is difficult to negotiate in good faith if they do not know what the other side is holding. Owners have never openly shared those numbers, so why can the players not be skeptical? Either way, the league stands to lose more money the longer negotiations go along. The fact players now must re-negotiate a “new” pay-cut is a problem for the players association.
Without games, both sides stand to lose much more. Without games, the players would settle for a $170 million pot from a March agreement. Both sides are financially incentivized to reach a deal, but both sides are also looking to maximize their own outcome. A compromise is the only, and I mean only way they get baseball to happen this year. Unfortunately, I have my doubts.
Owners burden the risk and own the reward of owning a business. Players have the right to demand full pay for the games they play because when owners reap in the profits, players don’t share the profits. Why should the players then share the losses when times are burdened? Owners certainly have the right not to start the season if they feel it is too costly to run the operation, like any other business. I hope both sides quickly realize that getting an agreement is only beneficial for not only this year but more importantly into the future years. MLB has already blown the chance to be center of the sports stage for the entire summer, let’s hope they don’t lose their fans for the future.