Latest Chatter On Coronavirus-Altered Season

By Jeff Todd | at

Most agree that staging a 2020 MLB campaign is a worthwhile goal, so long as it can truly be done safely and responsibly. Dividing the spoils of a baseball season? That isn’t a reasonable priority given the present state of the world. But it does need to be done. No matter one’s view on the right approach to a tough issue, it’s tough to understand the reflexive vitriol launched at the players, many of whom don’t even earn monumental sums. Just like the owners, they’re merely engaged in a necessary economic negotiation — the latest round of which was spurred by the league’s decision to propose a further salary reduction and introduce it through the media.

  • Rays lefty Blake Snell sparked the latest round of controversy in the MLB-MLBPA salary battle when he offered some pointed comments during a Twitch stream. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times covered the story. Snell directly connected the matter of health to that of pay, saying he’s not willing to accept a further reduction of salary given that “the risk is through the roof.” Snell, who cited the possible long-term risks from the disease and worries about spreading it to family members, tells Topkin that he’s genuinely unsure whether to play even if the economics are sorted to his liking. While it wasn’t the smoothest delivery of his message, Snell seems genuinely conflicted and concerned with matters of real importance. The star lefty says he is still preparing for the 2020 campaign, but indicated he has begun to shift mentally to a 2021 return.
  • Snell found some support from one of the game’s biggest stars, Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper. As Corey Seidman of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports, Harper said in his own Twitch session that the hurler is “speaking the truth.” Now, that’s something far shy even of Snell’s warnings that he may or may not play. There’s no indication at the moment that Harper is considering a similar course. But it is a notable bit of star player unity on the matter of compensation.
  • Rockies star Nolan Arenado also saw merit in Snell’s comments. He tells Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription link) that Snell was “just being real” but also expressed understanding that it rubbed some the wrong way. Arenado says the players “understand we’re not going to get paid everything we thought we were getting this year” and are okay with that. He also took a more measured view of the health situation, while noting it is a legitimate concern. Ultimately, Arenado believes the sides had a deal and should honor it and move forward: “It is a risk. We did negotiate a deal. I think that’s the thing: We negotiated a deal. Now let’s go play. Let’s get to work. That’s where we as players are coming from.”
  • Cubs owner Tom Ricketts claimed yesterday that fully 70 percent of his team’s revenue comes from gameday operations. As Rob Arthur notes on Twitter, that sounds like a figure that may reflect a selective snippet of the real balance sheet of the multi-faceted Cubs-related empire. This goes to the main problem behind the league’s reported 50/50 revenue-sharing plan: it’s impossible even to assess unless the full picture is available. While teams may not believe players are entitled to a share of regional sports network revenue, surrounding real estate, and other such broader initiatives, the organizations do stand to profit from those adjacent activities. And given the league’s claim of potential losses in a spectator-free season — which is a relevant aspect of the recent contract agreed upon between the sides — it seems only fair to consider the full picture.
  • If you thought Snell’s comments sparked a firestorm, let’s see how this plays out … Alex Rodriguez, who earned more money playing baseball than anyone, just released an odd video calling upon players and owners to work out a 50/50 split. It’s mostly a bland call to work together, but A-Rod’s controversial background (not to mention his recent dalliance with purchasing the Mets) puts a different spin on the generally mundane words. Thing is, the owners know that going halfsies sounds fair. But the real question isn’t the relative split, it’s the absolute size of the pie the owners are offering to carve up — and how close it comes to the pro rata pay (approximately half pay for a half season) the players believe to be appropriate.
  • Even if (likely when) the matter of salary is resolved, it’s clear there are quite a few complicated questions, as Jayson Stark of The Athletic (subscription link) nicely breaks down. The one that stands out: commissioner Rob Manfred says that individual players won’t be forced to play once the finances are sorted out. But what does that mean in terms of salary, service time, and the like? There’s quite a lot still for the sides to work through.

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