Neither MLB owners nor players, publicly feuding over money during a global pandemic, appear ready to compromise yet.
The Players Association does not plan to make any financial concessions in a counterproposal that could come as soon as Friday, sources said Thursday. That is because, the union contends, MLB has not proven that it is not economically feasible to pay players prorated salaries.
The looming counterproposal would be on issues other than compensation, and the sides have daily conversations about health and safety protocols, according to a source. The union may pitch a schedule of 100 or so games, as opposed to the 82 on MLB’s agenda, which would create more revenue for teams and perhaps alleviate some of the alleged money woes.
Amid those baseball restart talks, Max Scherzer, among the most prominent players in the union, and Scott Boras, the most famous agent in baseball, are standing their ground on the salaries issue.
In an email to his clients, released by The Associated Press, Boras said not to give in to owners pressuring them to accept lower pay for 2020. Players want to be paid the prorated salaries they agreed to in March, but MLB wants players to accept further cuts to account for a lack of fans in the stands and associated revenue.
“If this was just about baseball, playing games would give the owners enough money to pay the players their full prorated salaries and run the baseball organization,” Boras wrote in part. “The owners' current problem is a result of the money they borrowed when they purchased their franchises, renovated their stadiums or developed land around their ballparks. This type of financing is allowed and encouraged by MLB because it has resulted in significant franchise valuations.”
“Owners now want players to take additional pay cuts to help them pay these loans. They want a bailout,” he continued. “They are not offering players a share of the stadiums, ballpark villages or the club itself, even though salary reductions would help owners pay for these valuable franchise assets. These billionaires want the money for free. No bank would do that. Banks demand loans be repaid with interest. Players should be entitled to the same respect.”
Boras also advised clients to “share this concept with your teammates and fellow players,” which seemed to rankle some within the union. Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer, who like Boras is never afraid to speak his mind, tweeted Wednesday evening: “Hearing a LOT of rumors about a certain player agent meddling in MLBPA affairs. If true — and at this point, these are only rumors — I have one thing to say... Scott Boras, rep your clients however you want to, but keep your damn personal agenda out of union business.”
Scherzer, a Boras client, expressed a sentiment similar to Boras’ in a statement posted to Twitter late Wednesday night.
A member of the union’s eight-player executive subcommittee, Scherzer is one of the few players to speak publicly amid the baseball restart talks.
“After discussing the latest developments with the rest of the players there’s no reason to engage with MLB in any further compensation reductions,” Scherzer wrote. “We have previously negotiated a pay cut in the version of prorated salaries, and there’s no justification to accept a 2nd pay cut based upon the current information the union has received.
“I’m glad to hear other players voicing the same viewpoint and believe MLB’s economic strategy would completely change if all the documentation were to become public.”
The last half of the last sentence is a reference to the one-sided money public knowledge that long has been a part of baseball. The information that Scherzer would have made more than $28 million in salary in a normal 2020, for example, is readily available. But MLB team owners don’t reveal how much money they make in a given year, nor do they share their entire financial picture with the union, so there is a degree of distrust between the parties.
Amid the payroll/revenues fight, a glimmer of good news came out of Texas on Thursday. Gov. Greg Abbott announced that outdoor stadiums can host fans at 25% of their normal capacities. Both of Texas’ major-league ballparks — the Astros’ Minute Maid Park and Rangers’ Globe Life Field — have retractable roofs.
The eight players on the Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Subcommittee:
Elvis Andrus, Rangers
Andrew Miller, Cardinals
Daniel Murphy, Rockies
Max Scherzer, Nationals
Cory Gearrin, Twins
Chris Iannetta, Yankees
Jamex Paxton, Yankees
Collin McHugh Red Sox