It’s not helped during a pandemic that Major League Baseball’s revenue structure put any negotiations about further player pay in a more complex spot compared to other pro sports leagues.
That said, past grievances against one another have built up a salty residue around the relationship between MLB players and its group of owners. Restrictions to travel and health precautions around coronavirus have only magnified that, according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale.
“I do believe the pandemic’s been a big reason for this that they’re not sitting face-to-face,” he told Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf on Tuesday. “They’re not holed up in a hotel going off of room service type thing and coming back and spending 36 straight hours staring at one another. I think that’s been an impediment … they haven’t even had a Zoom call in recent weeks.”
Instead, owners and players have communicated in leaked letters or media interviews, some of which have claimed the other side is negotiating in bad faith.
Surely, a pandemic is not a situation where smooth negotiations should be expected.
Health protocols have not been firmly established. None of the NBA, NHL or NFL have yet to face the reality of welcoming back large groups of players with the risks of them carrying and spreading coronavirus.
Like the NHL, the NBA relatively quickly agreed on a return format. But adding to the apprehensiveness was George Floyd’s death with a knee on his neck in the custody of police officers. It has begged the question: Should they play when there are much larger societal issues at hand?
Meanwhile, baseball remains in a salary-related stalemate that has gotten nasty enough where, as of Tuesday, players and owners have stopped negotiating altogether.
The players union on Saturday declined an MLB offer proposing a 72-game schedule. That put the ball in commissioner Rob Manfred’s hands as the union asked him to set a return date and a number of games, effectively ceasing negotiations.
Within a week of saying he was 100% sure baseball would happen, the commissioner told ESPN on Monday he wasn’t feeling confident about a season happening. According to reports, MLB owners fear players will file lawsuits for financial damages as they feel they are owed more money than the league has been willing to pay.
“I think MLB was thrown off,” Nightengale said. “They were ready for a counter-offer. They thought that negotiations were going to continue. When (the players) said no more negotiations, that’s when Rob Manfred changed his tune.
“I think it’s going to be nasty. What’s it going to be like next year? Right now, you’d have to think very strong possibility of a work stoppage after Dec. 1 of next year (when the current Collective Bargaining Agreement ends). It’s hard to believe these two sides are going to get something done with all the nastiness right now.”