What the owners make, what the players make.
I hope for fairness. That no one is exploited. That transparency wins.
I do think the players are the engine of the game, the product that fans spend money on. Thus whatever players receive you will never read in this space that they are greedy or undeserving. Still, when covering, say, Gerrit Cole’s negotiation if he received $10 million a year, fine; if he received $50 million a year, fine. Don’t care.
In the current negotiations to restart the season, the advocates from both sides try to twist me to their view. And, in real time, both sound reasonable and right. If I must decide on a jump ball, I will do the best possible to figure out where I stand.
But whether the advocates believe it or not — and most times I think they do not — I really don’t care how they split the money until it encroaches on what I do care about.
The baseball. The history. The integrity. The continuity.
MLB is talking about implementing a 50ish-game season that feels a slander to the league’s history, integrity and continuity. In a pandemic maybe you take what you get. But it is not the virus stopping owners and players from staging a more representative season. It is the money.
When this is all forensically gone over in the future, I suspect we will discover that if the sides had been cooperative they already would have been in spring training for a few weeks now and been capable of playing a regular season that ends in September and was 100 or more games.
MLB’s first offer of 82 games was going to invite asterisks. But at least it is half a season. Being in first place at roughly the traditional All-Star break feels relevant, if incomplete. Teams reach 50 games at about Memorial Day, normally the first pitstop to assess the season, not determine everything from ERA titles to championships.
Maybe expanded playoffs would cover some shorter-season sins. But the 50ish game season with full prorated pay would be something forced upon the players. They would have to approve going from 10 to 14 postseason teams, and why would they do that moneymaking favor for the owners?
MLB has had five teams (10 total) in each league make the playoffs each season since 2012. Seven times in those eight seasons a World Series participant was not in postseason position through Memorial Day, including the champion Nationals last year and both the AL-winning Tigers and champion Giants in 2012.
Using June 30 for an approximation of when teams reach 82 games, five 2012-19 World Series participants still were not in one of the 10 playoff spots. But if the playoffs expanded to 14 clubs all World Series teams would make the playoffs except for last year’s Nationals, who would have had to compete in a play-in as they were tied for the final playoff spot, and the 2012 Tigers, who were just 38-40 though June 30.
If the playoffs were kept to 10 teams, the numbers rise slightly with 57 of a possible 80 teams from 2012-2019 in postseason position through June 30, compared to 54 through Memorial Day.
But there has to be more than just the data here. This sport just had to penalize the 2017 Astros and 2018 Red Sox for illegal sign stealing, throwing further doubt on the credibility of those champions. Again, 82-100 games would not be perfect. But a half season-plus of accomplishment is way meatier than one-third. Baseball is a game appreciated for its daily, serial journey. The endurance is part of the joy. And I believe, fans would have provided a lot of the needed credibility if MLB and its players were maneuvering together to play as many games as possible during a pandemic.
Not playing when MLB could be a unifying force in time of racial strife, a monetary boon amid financial disaster (don’t forget how many subsidiary jobs in travel, hospitality, transportation, media, etc, benefit from the game) and a symbol that some form of normality will rise with all the sickness and death is so short-term, blinders-on stupid for both sides that they are not going to get any benefit of the doubt by playing less not more.
Really, I don’t care how they split the money. But I do think more would be there than is projected. There are avenues in which some attendance returns and opportunities to do marketing deals with so little fresh entertainment content available from, say, Hollywood. There are expanded playoffs. The chance to get larger than prorated dollars from regional sports networks.
But the sides are losing time to do that to the best use, which is starting by the Independence Day weekend and playing no fewer than 82 games.
Already by fighting so publicly on this matter, MLB has hurt its reputation. Putting on a season shorter than it needs to be will do credibility damage that carries well beyond a schedule of any length.