If MLB games are played in empty parks, players want pay to remain the same

Fenway Park
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Per Ronald Blum of the Associated Press, Major League Baseball players don’t think their pay should be adjusted if regular season games were to be played in empty ballparks. Recently, New York governor Andrew Cuomo suggested, after talking with Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, that players would have to agree to a pay cut if the league were to play games without fans in attendance.

Referring to an agreement made last month between ownership and players, executive director of the MLB Players Association Tony Clark said, “Players recently reached an agreement with Major League Baseball that outlines economic terms for resumption of play, which included significant salary adjustments and a number of other compromises. That negotiation is over.”

In the agreement, the players agreed to forfeit 1/162nd of their base pay for each regular season game lost. For instance, if a 100-game season were to be paid, a player making the major league minimum of $563,500 would lose over $215,000 as their salary would be reduced to $348,500. Understandably, players are hesitant to forfeit even more money in order to play games during a pandemic.

Blum characterizes the players as being “upset” over Cuomo’s suggestion. “Give an inch and they’ll take a mile,” the saying goes. There are realistic concessions to be made during a pandemic, like forfeiting your salary for work you won’t be doing. And there are unrealistic concessions, such as essentially paying your bosses to be able to do your job. Cuomo’s suggestion is the latter. Making such a concession could make such a policy hard to revert when the pandemic is over, and could lead to less leverage going forward, especially as the two sides will eventually arrive at the table for the next collective bargaining agreement. The union is right to balk at such ideas.