By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — They need to stop.READ MORE: 'It Was My Dream': Bill Shields Retires After 41 Years At WBZ
Both sides of this fake “negotiation” may think they’re helping their cause with each rage-filled antipathic statement released to the media. But they are not. They are merely making themselves look worse. Each and every time.
They need to stop.
And they really ought to shut up.
If you missed the latest round of “discussions” that took place over the past several days, then good for you. You must live a fulfilling life.
Here is the briefest recap possible:
–The owners made an offer to the MLBPA for a 72-game season with 70 percent prorated salaries — which could bump up to 80 percent if the postseason were to be completed.
–This was not an honest proposal in any sense, because the end game that everyone knows is coming will be a 48-game schedule at full proration. Ergo, the latest offer amounted to the owners asking the players to play more games without paying them more.
–Not content to merely make a bad fake offer through the media, MLB also wrote a passive-aggressive, sarcastic, and disrespectful five-page letter accompanying that fake offer. It was embarrassing.
–MLBPA director Tony Clark managed to tone down his own rhetoric in his public response to that offer and that letter, essentially saying that the players are now prepared to wait until MLB unilaterally decides on a 48-game season with full prorated salaries. Until then, negotiations are a waste of time.
If that little back-and-forth looked identical to every other “negotiating session” over the past few months, that’s because it was.
And so, the clownery continues, with no real end in sight. The most pressing question now is, after the commissioner announces that players must partake in a 48-game season, whether or not the players will actually show up to work.
Now, if the world were to be completely honest with itself, the majority of the blame for this situation would be pinned squarely on the owners. They are billionaires, and they’ve made lots and lots (and lots and lots) of money by virtue of owning baseball teams. No matter how much it may “cost” them to play baseball games in empty stadiums this year, they’re still making out quite well over the course of their full ownership term. “Losing” money in 2020 would amount to a blip on their overall profits over the course of 10, 15, or 20-plus years. (That is, unless they are terrible businessmen. Given the way they’ve shown themselves to conduct business lately, that possibility cannot be ruled out.)
These owners have seemingly made an active effort to not deliver baseball this year. They’ve put the onus on the players to play baseball to “lift America’s spirits” or some other cockamamie fluffery that they’d never accept in their own billion-dollar business lives. Yet the owners have shown zero willingness, effort or desire to actually make that happen, all under the ruse that they would lose a few dollars in the endeavor.
It seems like the owners only want to lift America’s spirits if they can turn a profit off it. Otherwise … meh.
That news broke over the weekend that MLB landed a billion-dollar deal with Turner Sports to broadcast playoff games doesn’t really help the owners’ collective cause of crying poor, now does it?READ MORE: COVID Vaccine Booster Shots Ready To Go For Those Eligible In Massachusetts
Refusing to disclose their finances also dents their credibility, as does the fact that they are all extraordinarily wealthy people yet have chosen to play the role of paupers in the middle of a global pandemic and during a time of historic social unrest and during a time of historic unemployment rates in the country.
It’s not great.
But the players … they’re not coming out completely clean in this either. For as much as they are more right than the owners, that’s an awfully low bar to clear.
Through Clark’s messaging and through their own comments, players throughout this ordeal have acted as if they have actually given up something by “agreeing” to taking prorated salaries. That, though, is not a concession. That is simple economics. You do not receive a full $10 million salary for doing half the work; you get $5 million. For players to act like that is a concession was a valiant act of honor was disingenuous at best. More accurately, it was — to use some technical business jargon — pure donkey-like behavior.
Of course, the owners offering 70 percent of the proration over 72 games, as opposed to a full proration of an MLB-mandated 48 or 50-game season was an absolutely sleazy attempt to try to use the media to paint the players as greedy oafs. Tacking on a letter of admonition was a very on-brand addendum. This is shameful behavior on the part of the owners, yes, but we’ve come to expect nothing less.
Yet somehow, after that exchange and after every step along the way, Tony Clark has struggled to capture the moment as a sympathetic one for the players. If he can’t come out of this moment making the players look unequivocally in the right, then what can he do? At what point in history will he be able to come up with a win in the court of public opinion if he has proven incapable of doing that now?
It all makes you wonder what will happen in the winter of 2021, when these sides that clearly hate each other and clearly lack competence at the leadership level get together to draw up a new CBA to maintain labor “peace” for the long term. Which in turn makes you wonder about the long-term health (or existence) of Major League Baseball.
And all of that wondering is completely unnecessary. Because we shouldn’t be here right now.
As for the immediate future, let’s hope the two sides don’t offer any more “proposals,” as they’ve proven to just have been bombs lobbed through the media, intended to make the other side look bad. The league at some point will announce a 50-game schedule, and that will be that. All this fighting for absolutely nothing, with the commissioner exercising a power that he’s had all along.
If and when that’s the case, will the players actually show up? Based on the way owners view them, based on the fact that they’d potentially be risking injury while getting just a third of their pay, and based on the MINOR detail that we haven’t exactly solved this coronavirus pandemic just yet, a strike would not be surprising, even if it’s not being discussed at the moment. Whereas the NBA has been working on language and protocols that would allow players to skip out on the Orlando “bubble” season and postseason without punishment, it would be a shocking change of course for baseball’s owners to offer anything of the like to any of their players.
And that’s what we’re talking about here, smack dab in the middle of June. Players aren’t in camps, teams aren’t working out or scrimmaging, and we don’t have any Fourth of July baseball games scheduled to watch — in a summer when most Americans remain home all day every day and would be uniquely tuned in to baseball. With the league likely less concerned about prime-time scheduling during this unique season, the game is missing a tremendous opportunity to captivate the next generation of fans with day games, double-headers, mic’d up players, creative rule changes, and any other advance in broadcasting that should be what MLB and the MLBPA are discussing right now. Instead, they’re yapping about who’s more wrong.
It’s bad. Everyone’s bad. And it’s fair to wonder if Major League Baseball manages to screw this all up so badly that the one-two punch of labor strife in 2020 during these global and national circumstances followed by hostile CBA negotiations in 2021 are enough to land a crushing blow for a sport that has been bleeding interest and attendance more and more each year.
All of this is happening because neither side has proven to be competent or reasonable. It’s probably too late for this suggestion to make any sort of meaningful impact, but nevertheless, it remains wise for everybody involved to simply stop talking. Each and every time they decide to go on the offensive, they only end up damaging the sport.
UPDATE: Rob Manfred did not shut up.MORE NEWS: Fourth Stimulus Check: Is Another Relief Payment Coming?