Roughly 30 million people are unemployed right now. My guess is many more have taken some kind of pay cut.
More than 115,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, millions of protesters have taken to the streets in the wake of George Floyd’s death, and then this tweet came in Monday from ESPN baseball writer Jeff Passan:
BREAKING: MLB commissioner Rob Manfred tells @Espngreeny that he’s “not confident” there will be a 2020 baseball season. “Unfortunately,” Manfred said, “I can’t tell you that I’m a 100% certain that’s gonna happen.”
It’s OK to be irate. It’s OK to want to take that Roku remote you’ve been stuck with for three months and throw it through your flat screen. Millionaires and billionaires squabbling over percentages and salaries right now is like a massive finger down the middle of your throat.
Every passing day is a little more nauseating. And if this season is canceled amid everything going on in our country, a huge swath of fans who pay these guys their salaries will be gone for good. Regardless of who might be in the right in terms of these negotiations, failure to come to terms will be seen only as an unprecedented surrendering to ego and greed.
The PGA Tour is already back. Major League Soccer is set to resume in early July, and the NBA is coming back a few weeks later. People don’t need baseball like they used to. Yes, MLB will always have its built-in diehards, but we’re living in an age of limitless entertainment. If the players and owners give folks any excuse to binge a Netflix series instead of watch or attend a game, they’ll do it — especially if they’re brimming with resentment.
And why wouldn’t they? This would be a case of some of the most privileged people in the world failing to find common ground when “normal life” has become a distant memory for most of the nation.
Yes, there are reasons for the chasm that exists between the two parties. Players want 100% of their prorated salaries, which both sides initially agreed to. Basically, if the season ends up being one-third as long as the usual 162 games, a player originally set to earn $9 million wants $3 million. But the owners — who anticipate taking on massive losses due to games being played without fans — have asked players to take 70% of their prorated salaries, with a maximum of 83% if all playoff games are played.
To say that this is causing a little tension is like saying Joe Exotic is a little different. And Manfred suggesting there might not be a season just gave that tension an adrenaline shot.
“Players are disgusted that after Rob Manfred unequivocally told players and fans that there would ‘100%’ be a 2020 season, he has decided to go back on his word and is now threatening to cancel the entire season,” MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark said in a statement. “This latest threat is just one more indication that Major League Baseball has been negotiating in bad faith since the beginning.”
Personally, I lean toward the players in this scenario. And I think it’s unfair that fans typically dismiss their concerns because they’re still getting rich playing a game. Fair is fair regardless of how many digits are in your bank account. But nobody is going to sympathize with the players in this situation. Fans will see only one thing: greed in the age of coronavirus.
Unfortunately, one side will have to do something it doesn’t like — maybe even hates. Somebody is going to have to make a sacrifice that twists his stomach into eagle-scout knots for the sake of saving the season.
There is a long-term collective-bargaining agreement that is going to have to be hammered out following the 2021 season, but if 2020 never happens, they’re going to be playing for a lot less money.
Just about everybody in the country is compromising right now. Just about everybody in the country is sacrificing, too. These prolonged negotiations don’t just signify greed — they signify an alarming lack of self-awareness.
There was a time when it seemed that baseball was going to be one of the first leagues back. There was a time when it seemed America’s pastime would serve as America’s unifier.
But if this pride and avarice prevail, millions of baseball fans can be summed up in three words. Going … going … gone.