MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed optimism about an abbreviated 2020 MLB season launching this summer, laying out a proposed testing program and discussing his sport’s financial proposal to players.
An initial meeting between Manfred and MLBPA head Tony Clark reportedly centered on how MLB intended to address player safety, including the frequency of testing and quarantine issues should a player test positive. On that note, Manfred said in a CNN interview that players would be tested for the COVID-19 virus several times a week, combined with a daily check for COVID-19 symptoms, including a temperature check. A player testing positive would be removed from the team and quarantined until two negative COVID-19 tests were recorded in a 24-hour period. Additionally, there would be contact tracing for a player testing positive. For those players not wanting to participate in the 2020 MLB season, Manfred says they are free to stay away from the game until they’re comfortable with heading back to the sport.
Player safety is a big issue, but the real elephant in the room is how players would be compensated. MLB has proposed a 50-50 split between owners and players, a proposal rejected by Clark and prominent agents like Scott Boras, who see it as a stepping stone to a hard salary cap. MLB has no salary cap, but MLB’s luxury tax serves as a soft cap of sorts. The NFL and NHL operate with a hard salary cap, while the NBA imposes a soft salary cap. Players, understandably, are wary of any sort of hard salary cap in the sport.
Despite the opposition by Clark and agents toward a salary cap or revenue split, Manfred is optimistic about a financial deal struck for the 2020 season–and presumably, setting the example for alterations to the 2021 season as well. From the Chicago Tribune:
“Whenever there is a discussion about economics, people tend to characterize it publicly as a fight,” he said. “Personally I have great confidence we’ll reach an agreement with the players association both that it’s safe to come back to work and (we’ll) work out the economic issues that need to be resolved.”
Manfred said the economic effects of a canceled season would be devastating for the 30 franchises.
“If we don’t play a season, the losses for the owners could approach 4 billion (dollars),” he said.
Just to note: that $4 billion figure is something MLB officials have said in a variety of circumstances outside of the salary negotiations.
To further the point that what’s being negotiated now isn’t necessarily the 2020 season or the 2021 season but rather a new collective bargaining agreement, attorneys for the players union have reportedly asked MLB owners to open the books on team finances, per an AP report. This can be a interesting situation. With the rise of MLB teams investing in real estate developments (i.e., Atlanta’s Battery and new offerings around Wrigley Field) and broadcasting services (i.a., the Marquee Network), determining team revenues isn’t as clear as it could be: revenue coming to a team owner could be argued as separate as those coming to the baseball team. From AP:
“There’s so many ways to hide the money,” Cincinnati pitcher Trevor Bauer said in a video he posted Wednesday on Twitter.
Bauer said owners could reduce ticket prices and at the same time charge more for parking garages they control through different entities that do not benefit the club.
Describing himself as being only slightly lighthearted, the outspoken 29-year-old took a shot at the baseball commissioner.
“If I’m going to have to trust my salary to Rob Manfred marketing the game to make more money for the game, I am out on that,” Bauer said. “Let me market the game and we’ll all make more money.”
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