After several weeks of quite public negotiations, MLB and the MLBPA appear to have reached another obstacle in the road toward play ball. The league sent over a proposal to the players that would result in a very significant salary reduction for everyone, especially the highest-paid players, and the union is unhappy about it. Despite the flare of hope that appeared a few weeks ago when July 4 was being tossed around as a date for training camp to start, baseball's status for 2020 remains very much in flux.
Jeff Passan went on the Rich Eisen Show today to discuss the recent developments and revealed there are some MLB owners who would rather not play in 2020 at all because they're afraid they'll lose money as a result.
"I do believe, when the players say, 'We want to play,' I do actually believe that," said Passan. "I think there are some owners who don't. I think there are some owners who worry that playing is going to cost them too much, they're going to lose too much money, and that they'd rather just punt the 2020 season. And that is a scary thing to hear because it feels like you're focusing just on 2020 and not the repercussions beyond."
While not having a season in 2020 certainly could be a net positive given all the things we still don't know about coronavirus and the dangers it poses in the short and long-term, it would be exceptionally disappointing if there were no baseball this year because some owners are worried about the bottom line. It does line up that they would lose money -- with no revenue coming from stadiums, the teams will likely end up paying more to put on the operation than what they'd gain from fulfilling their television contracts. But I have a hard time believing any owner would go bankrupt from one season in the red.
Passan puts it best at the end of the segment when he says how the situation unfolds will reveal who cares about the game and who cares about the money. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that baseball must go on because America needs America's Game right now. If they decided not to hold the season because they can't ensure everyone's safety, then that's the best decision to make. But very wealthy men holding the season hostage in order to ensure they don't lose a cent of their hundreds of millions to billions is shameful.
Irreparable damage will be done to the game if owners are going to sit in their McMansions and tell the rest of us they won't help baseball come back because their checkbook won't look as nice after the fact. Baseball's reputation suffered drastically after the 1994 strike. Same with the NHL's lost season. If a battle over dollars and cents results in a lack of baseball this year, rather than the other massive factors at play, they could be set back years in terms of how the general public views MLB. As Passan and Eisen discuss, if there's no baseball in 2020, there isn't a guarantee that a home run race or another Cal Ripken broken record is waiting on the other side to draw eyes back to the game. It's a huge risk to take in normal times, much less now, when I'm confident in saying even the most hardcore of baseball fans would view a delay as a result of money pretty despicable.
If there's to be no baseball because of a global pandemic, that's one thing. But if there's to be no baseball because the owners can't see past their wallets, well... The situation takes on a whole new light.