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Monday, June 01, 2020

Sources: MLB mulls shorter season, full prorated salaries for players

Unable to yet reach a return-to-play agreement, Major League Baseball has discussed playing a shorter schedule in which it would pay members of the MLB Players Association their full prorated salaries, sources familiar with the situation told ESPN.

Though MLB does not intend to propose this to the players, the possibility of implementing a schedule of around 50 games that would start in July has been considered by the league as a last resort in the event the parties can’t come to a deal, sources said.

Players have held out for a full prorated portion of their salaries based on a March 26 agreement with the league, and in an offer Sunday proposed a 114-game schedule that would cover 70.3% of their original salaries. A 50-game schedule with full pro rata would pay the players 30.8% of that number.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 01, 2020 at 06:47 PM | 33 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. John Northey Posted: June 02, 2020 at 12:31 AM (#5954862)
At least the back and forth is getting quicker now. So 50 games plus expanded playoff from owners, 114 games plus expanded playoff from players. Sounds like we have our format, just a debate on games. Players paid on a per game basis both sides have now agreed to, thus a lot closer to a deal.

81 game season anyone? Half a year for everyone, plus a big playoff. Good warm up for the overall contract negotiations which start the second this season is set I suspect.
   2. John Northey Posted: June 02, 2020 at 12:38 AM (#5954864)
Say, I wonder - is there any island or something that isn't US soil that MLB could play on thus avoid COVID restrictions? Canada has had tighter rules, as have most nations so if you assume a big second wave you need somewhere to play away from it - an isolated island sounds ideal if it has a few diamonds and you can set up TV cameras - send the signal back to the states, edit as needed, then broadcast it. Could play games in well under 2 hours as no commercial breaks while playing just edit them in and then broadcast. Live is irrelevant if no communication from the games is allowed. Could be a workable solution. Maybe an island in the Hawaii area? Would need to find somewhere that hurricanes are unlikely and ideally one that has a hotel already that MLB could just take over. Total isolation. Players could have their families there but the rule would be once you leave you are gone until the season is over or you have a 2 week quarantine once back. Could do minor league games/workouts on secondary fields (AAA/AA level) and broadcast those games too thus giving a lot of content. A level players and down would be at the teams spring training facilities as they have less of a need to play a variety of teams or to be available for the ML team.
   3. flournoy Posted: June 02, 2020 at 01:28 AM (#5954876)
Who would benefit from that solution as opposed to the various proposals?
   4. The Yankee Clapper Posted: June 02, 2020 at 01:48 AM (#5954877)
It’s a bit late in the game to implement anything like the Island Plan suggested in #2, although I suspect MLB considered numerous single-site options, such as the Arizona Plan, before deciding that playing in home parks, as much as possible, was its best bet. MLB should be able to have a “tight bubble” around the players at the ballpark, it’s interactions with family & friends that could be a problem. All 30 teams playing ~ 81 games, followed by expanded playoffs, would be great considering the challenges faced this season.
   5. The Duke Posted: June 02, 2020 at 07:49 AM (#5954878)
So this just looks like getting at salary cuts from a different pathway. I assume less regular season games means less pay for players and more post-season play means no pay for players. Thus, the owners effectively cut their pay about 60-70% and then take in lots of cash for an expanded post-season. Is that how the economics work?

It’s a cute trick but it’s wholly unsatisfying from a fans perspective. It’s not a real season and then a playoff free for all. Whatever.

I’m mostly concerned about all the terrible new things that are being changed like the dh, expanded playoffs, more stupid inter league play logic, and loss of the draft, collapsed minors, crazy Health guidelines that are going to suck the last remaining fun from the game.

For me, I’d rather see them Agree to move the CBA up a year and get it all resolved and start fresh next Feb with a real season

By happenstance, I had to give up my season tix package after last year - happy I did
   6. Jeff Francoeur's OPS Posted: June 02, 2020 at 08:11 AM (#5954881)
Perhaps a coincidence, but:

(50+114)/2 = 82
   7. Adam Starblind Posted: June 02, 2020 at 08:11 AM (#5954882)
I'd like to watch baseball with my sons.
   8. McCoy Posted: June 02, 2020 at 08:59 AM (#5954883)
The players get paid in the playoffs but the pay is based on ticket revenue. So if there is no ticket revenue and or more rounds in the playoffs that is going to have to get negotiated.
   9. PreservedFish Posted: June 02, 2020 at 09:16 AM (#5954884)
(50+114)/2 = 82

Is this one of these negotiations where everyone knows exactly where it will end up, but both sides feel obligated to conduct a performance before they get there?
   10. Rally Posted: June 02, 2020 at 09:19 AM (#5954885)
In 2018 the total playoff bonus pool was 88 million - for all playoff teams to split. Red Sox gave out 66 shares, each worth 416k.

They will need to make sure some bonus pool exists, coming from the TV money, but hopefully they won’t kill a deal over an amount where the WS winners take home less than the league minimum salary even in good times.
   11. Ron J Posted: June 02, 2020 at 09:32 AM (#5954886)
#10 Those 2018 numbers make a good place to start the negotiations. Yes, MLB's revenues will be down from then but in a pretty easy to calculate way.

And yes, MLB can point to the CBA and say in effect, "Nothing to negotiate".

As long as they don't want to have a 2020 season.
   12. Howie Menckel Posted: June 02, 2020 at 11:58 AM (#5954908)
speaking of sports, anyone for MLS?

Mark J. Burns
Source: MLSPA is holding a bargaining committee call that began around 11:30 p.m. ET.

Key issue and sticking pt between MLS-MLSPA in ongoing CBA talks was force majeure and language connected to attendance drops, per sources fam. @JeffreyCarlisle had 1st on Sunday. More in SBD.
11:45 AM · Jun 2, 2020
   13. Rally Posted: June 02, 2020 at 01:54 PM (#5954931)
538 has probably the best estimate I’ve seen on components of revenue, expenses, and what a half season would mean for net income.

Player expenses of 4.6 billion is pretty solid. The 4.1 billion in non-player expenses is murky, and the missing piece to the puzzle. Without knowing what goes in there hard to say how it will be affected. But excellent job by Neil to gather the other info into one source.
   14. JRVJ Posted: June 02, 2020 at 02:28 PM (#5954938)
I've been thinking about this since yesterday, and I think the MLBPA walked itself into a trap.

The best position for MLBPA was that the players were very concerned about the health concerns of playing MLB, both for themselves and their loved ones. Indeed, the position of none other than Mike Trout was that he was disinclined to play in 2020 if it meant being away from his pregnant wife (other players made similar points).

But right now, MLB and MLBPA are arguing over the length of the season, for purely economic reasons.

Let's put aside the economic rationale of MLBPA's position of playing 110+ games in 2020 (*). The problem with insisting that the 2020 season be longer (as opposed to MLB's shorter proposal) is that MLBPA just batted away the health concern argument (a 50-60 game regular season HAS to be less dangerous to players and their loved ones than a 100-110 game regular season).

Now it may turn out that MLBPA comes out with an outcome that is satisfactory to its members, but I simply don't see how they can make the health argument in these negotiations (I realize that MLBPA can say: "We're willing to play a 100-110 game regular season so that our members can recoup a significant amount of the money they would have made in 2020" or they can say "We have appraised the risk of playing a 100-110 game regular season versus a 50-60 game regular season, and the level of danger between both options is not material"... but I am simply unconvinced by either potential position).

(*) Going back to MLBPA's economic rationale, from a solely economic standpoint, it makes sense to play as many games in 2020 as you can, so that your members receive a higher amount of their prorated 2020 salaries.

   15. Rally Posted: June 02, 2020 at 03:29 PM (#5954958)
Problem, the longer this drags on the fewer games we can possibly have. They aren’t starting tomorrow, so only way to get 110 games is to play to November, starting in July, and have time for playoffs before the 2021 season. Sure, you can push things past 12-31, but then you won’t be able to start next season on time.

I assume playoff games will have to be in warm states like AZ or FL, even if they play some regular season games up north.
   16. The Yankee Clapper Posted: June 02, 2020 at 03:36 PM (#5954959)
Now it may turn out that MLBPA comes out with an outcome that is satisfactory to its members, but I simply don't see how they can make the health argument in these negotiations . . .
IMHO, the health issues were always going to be resolved by the players having a ‘tight bubble’ environment that put them at less risks than most workers, and perhaps less risk than they would encounter on their own not playing. There may be a few public relations points to be gained by the portraying your side as most concerned about public health, but PR points aren’t going to effect the negotiations much.

The players will earn some goodwill by wanting to play more games - fans want more baseball, not less. More importantly, that interim agreement between MLB & the MLBPA obligates MLB to make the “best efforts to play as many games as possible”. For some reason, much of the reporting has ignored that aspect of the agreement. MLB risks a lawsuit over that “best efforts” clause and its duty to bargain in good faith, so it would be wise not to overplay its hand, even if a faction of the owners prefer not to play in 2020. Both sides have strong incentives to get a deal done, so I’m still hopeful.
   17. The Duke Posted: June 02, 2020 at 03:41 PM (#5954960)
Looking at 538 math and other publications analysis, it’s so thin. There’s a discussion in 538 on whether the owners retain 100% of tv income. I’m surprised there is so little understanding of this issue. 538 at least contemplates a force majeure thought process and then dismissed it for the most part. Until you know the answer to that, everything else is spitballing. My guess is that even the owners don’t know - I suspect the tv/cable companies are waiting to see the outcome but I would almost certainly bet these revenues will come down. Customers must be demanding their cable bill be discounted, right?

On the cost side, again no Serious attempt is made to understand what will happen to non-player costs. I can’t believe a smart analyst can’t go a level deeper on these things.

I suspect the tv/cable revenues are at high risk and the fixed cost structure is hard to pare back more than 20-30%. I think the players aren’t at all interested so I think the season won’t happen.
   18. Rally Posted: June 02, 2020 at 03:46 PM (#5954962)
Customers must be demanding their cable bill be discounted, right?

Not so sure about that, at least any more than they normally do. Lots of TV watching, because there's nowhere to go and nothing else to do. For those of us who have jobs and are working from home, having that cable internet is kind of important right now.
   19. Zach Posted: June 02, 2020 at 07:50 PM (#5955014)
Overall, MLB revenues will be reduced a lot by playing a half-season of games without fans. Even if we broadly assume teams can retain all of their national TV revenue, 75 percent of their local TV revenue2 and licensing revenue and 50 percent of their central revenue, that would see MLB-wide revenue drop from $9.9 billion to just $4.2 billion.

Wait, what? Why would we assume any of those things?

This guy is handwaving his way to saying that teams will keep 80% of non ticket revenue in a season where they're selling half the inventory in a tough economic climate.

Going by their table, they get
$5.4 billion in a normal year
$4.23 billion "broadly assumed" this year
$2.7 billion from a straight 50% cut.

(This estimate is obviously dependent on the assumptions involved. But it’s hard to do the math so that total MLB revenues fall outside of the $3 billion to $5 billion range, even in an abbreviated 2020.)

No, it's easy to do the math. Multiply the per game revenue by the number of games, and set tickets, concessions, and parking to zero. $2.7 billion.

This is just whistling past the graveyard.
   20. Zach Posted: June 02, 2020 at 07:56 PM (#5955015)
And if the other expenses were similarly sliced in half, another $2 billion in losses would fall away.

Doing a rough analysis using last year’s salaries and the league’s proposed reduction scale (according to Passan and Jesse Rogers), players would make only 48 percent of their prorated salaries under the owners’ sliding-scale proposal — or just 24 percent of their normal, full-season salaries.

$2.7 B/ $9.9 B = 27% of normal revenues. Same ballpark.

It's all so easy if you just wave your hand to generate $1.5 B extra revenue and $2B fewer losses.
   21. Zach Posted: June 02, 2020 at 07:58 PM (#5955016)
For those of us who have jobs and are working from home, having that cable internet is kind of important right now.

From what I read, cable cutting is super high right now.
   22. Zach Posted: June 02, 2020 at 08:00 PM (#5955018)
Is it right to assume an estimated 50 percent reduction in “other” expenses? On the one hand, some long-term obligations attached to stadiums and other debt would be difficult to prorate down or otherwise alter from their 2019 levels. But teams have also taken aggressive steps to slash nonplayer expenses during the coronavirus, including staff furloughs, a dramatically scaled-down draft and sweeping cuts to hundreds of minor league players and employees. It’s not unreasonable to assume these would balance out to roughly the same reduction we’d assume of anything else in a prorated half-season.

So the sport as a whole pays $5 billion in salaries for staff, minor leaguers, and draft bonuses? Those minor leaguers and scouts are doing better than I thought!
   23. Zach Posted: June 02, 2020 at 08:11 PM (#5955020)
The owners have claimed (via a presentation from the commissioner’s office to the union leaked to The Associated Press) that playing an abbreviated season and paying the players their prorated salaries would result in 89 percent of league revenue going to the players and would hand teams a $4 billion total loss. That number was met with immediate skepticism and fact-checking scrutiny.

Guess what?

0.5*$4.6B = $2.3 B = 86% of $2.7 B.

538's own numbers agree with the owners.
   24. Zach Posted: June 02, 2020 at 08:30 PM (#5955025)
I have to say, if I were a national broadcaster paying $1.7 billion for a year's worth of games and had the league come to me canceling 50% of the games on short notice, I would feel like I was on pretty solid ground asking to reduce my payments by 50% as well.

Regardless of contractual language, there aren't that many networks that can put $1.7 billion per year on the table. The owners aren't in any position to refuse a reasonable offer.
   25. Mayor Blomberg Posted: June 02, 2020 at 09:54 PM (#5955033)
So the sport as a whole pays $5 billion in salaries for staff, minor leaguers, and draft bonuses?

Game day stadium staff, purchase cost of the stuff they sell at delightfully inflated prices, the spreads for reporters, it's all in the mix.

I mean I realize that I'm being insensitive to teams that only made $1.2 billion each, on average, last year, but so be it.
   26. Sunday silence Posted: June 03, 2020 at 07:32 AM (#5955054)
BUt didnt we already calculate an estimate for assorted team personnel that would be needed in a FL AZ TX league? Didnt we presume a total of 300 personnel per team? Subtract the actual ball players and such that leaves what about 250 people dividing up a pie that equals $137M per team...?
   27. Howie Menckel Posted: June 03, 2020 at 01:59 PM (#5955137)
Ken Rosenthal
MLB rejected the union’s proposal for a 114-game season and said it would not send a counter, sources tell The Athletic. The league said it has started talks with owners about playing a shorter season without fans, and that it is ready to discuss additional ideas with the union.
1:26 PM · Jun 3, 2020
   28. Rally Posted: June 03, 2020 at 02:21 PM (#5955139)
In the comments of the Athletic someone posted that the least fit player should take on the fittest owner in a steel cage match. Some of the interpretations of least fit focused on fat, with questions of whether Bartolo Colon, seeking employment, or Prince Fielder, highest paid player of 2020 should count.

But fat sure doesn’t mean not able to fight. Fielder would literally squash any owner in a fight. Instead of least fit, go with least physically intimidating. So the match should be: Jose Altuve vs Derek Jeter. Jeter’s got a lot of size on him, and as an ex athlete in presumably better shape than the other owners. But will his notorious slow reactions leave him defenseless against Altuve’s jabs?
   29. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: June 03, 2020 at 02:24 PM (#5955141)
“Ok Jose, we’ll bang the can once for a right cross, twice for a left hook.”
   30. Sunday silence Posted: June 03, 2020 at 03:47 PM (#5955147)
The best position for MLBPA was that the players were very concerned about the health concerns of playing MLB, both for themselves and their loved ones. Indeed, the position of none other than Mike Trout was that he was disinclined to play in 2020 if it meant being away from his pregnant wife

HOw is this a trap? If MLBPA thinks its too dangerous to play then the season is over and there's nothing to discuss. Except probably what if anything is owed to the players. Which could be contentious of course, but they have to appeal to Manfred etc.

SO what do you think they should have done? Declared it very dangerous to play. And then what demand Hazard Pay? To what end? I dont get it what pt are you trying to make?
   31. Zach Posted: June 03, 2020 at 05:06 PM (#5955165)
#28 -- you want to put Diving Jeter into a prizefight? I'll take Altuve and spot you the garbage can.
   32. The Yankee Clapper Posted: June 03, 2020 at 06:06 PM (#5955178)
The number of games remains an issue, but there is some progress on other issues:
The two sides are seeing eye to eye on expanded playoffs and the universal DH, Jon Heyman of MLB Network tweets. They’re also “close to agreeing on the all-important health protocols,” Heyman writes, but season length could still stand in the way of a deal.
81 games looks good to me, but MLB seems reluctant. Still time to get it done.
   33. The Yankee Clapper Posted: June 03, 2020 at 06:50 PM (#5955186)
An update from the link in #31:
Two team executives, Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams and Brewers president of baseball ops David Stearns, expressed optimism Wednesday that the owners and players will hammer something out. Williams told Jim Day of Fox Sports Ohio that “both sides want to play,” interestingly adding that he believes an agreement’s “very close” (via C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic). Stearns said, “I firmly believe we are going to have baseball this season” (per Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel).
Two sources! Named! Good enough for Woodward & Bernstein!

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