MLB owners are going to cry poor in an attempt to curb 2020 salaries

Rob Manfred 60 game season
Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

This afternoon, Craig reported that there is “going to be a war” if MLB owners seek further pay cuts in advance of the league attempting to start the 2020 season, likely some time in early July. Understandably, the players and the union that represents them are not happy about that.

In the time since Craig’s report, more details have trickled out about the issue. Per Jon Heyman, the owners are indeed going to seek to further curb player salaries this year, attempting to scrap prorated pay. Heyman adds that owners may suggest a 50/50 split based on revenues. That would, obviously, involve renegotiating the deal the owners and the union agreed to in March. Jim Bowden also reports that the league is expected to propose the use of a universal DH for the 2020 season.

As Newsday’s David Lennon notes, gate-related revenue makes up 51 percent of total revenues. That percentage is 40 percent for MLB at large. MLB set a new year-over-year revenue record for the 17th consecutive year, reaching $10.7 billion for the 2019 season. Let’s say in an alternate universe with no pandemic, the league would have set another revenue record at $11 billion for 2020. (2018 saw $10.3 billion in revenues, so the increase is reasonable.) 40 percent of $11 billion is $4.4 billion, so the league stands to lose $4.4 billion in revenues this year if no games are played. It also still stands go gain $6.6 billion in other revenues. The league and its individual team owners will still be making money — especially if it still has half a season, even if they don’t admit fans — just not as much as it otherwise would have in a non-pandemic year. The billionaires, who will still be billionaires during and after all of this, will be crying poor.

This all comes against the backdrop of the collective bargaining agreement expiring on December 1, 2021. The relationship between the union and ownership was already tense due to issues that existed well before the pandemic such as stagnant free agency and service time manipulation. The anxiety and uncertainty caused by the pandemic will only exacerbate the existing strain between the two sides.

If the union holds its ground and refuses to agree to further reduce player salaries for the 2020 season — or half-season if you will — there is a chance there will be no season at all. And just as in 1994, MLB owners and many in the media will characterize it as greedy players refusing to come to work. When the league comes into a windfall as it did with the MLB Advanced Media (BAMTech) sale in 2017 which netted each owner at least $50 million, did player salaries increase commensurate with the windfall? Of course not. As Craig put it earlier, the owners love to privatize the profits and socialize the losses. If the owners indeed propose curbing 2020 salaries, it’s going to be a tough sell to the union. And it will serve as the toughest test MLBPA executive director Tony Clark has had to face in his tenure.

New bill to build Athletics stadium on Las Vegas Strip caps Nevada’s cost at $380 million

D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

CARSON CITY, Nev. — A bill introduced in the Nevada Legislature would give the Oakland Athletics up to $380 million for a potential 30,000 seat, $1.5 billion retractable roof stadium on the Las Vegas Strip.

The bulk of the public funding would come from $180 million in transferable tax credits from the state and $120 million in county bonds, which can vary based on interest rate returns. Clark County also would contribute $25 million in credit toward infrastructure costs.

The A’s have been looking for a home to replace Oakland Coliseum, where the team has played since arriving from Kansas City for the 1968 season. The team had sought to build a stadium in Fremont, San Jose and finally the Oakland waterfront, all ideas that never materialized.

The plan in the Nevada Legislature won’t directly raise taxes. It can move forward with a simply majority vote in the Senate and Assembly. Lawmakers have a little more than a week to consider the proposal before they adjourn June 5, though it could be voted on if a special session is called.

The Athletics have agreed to use land on the southern end of the Las Vegas Strip, where the Tropicana Las Vegas casino resort sits. Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao has said he is disappointed the team didn’t negotiate with Oakland as a “true partner.”

Las Vegas would be the fourth home for a franchise that started as the Philadelphia Athletics from 1901-54. It would become the smallest TV market in Major League Baseball and the smallest market to be home to three major professional sports franchises.

The team and Las Vegas are hoping to draw from the nearly 40 million tourists who visit the city annually to help fill the stadium. The 30,000-seat capacity would make it the smallest MLB stadium.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said a vote on the Oakland Athletics’ prospective move to Las Vegas could take place when owners meet June 13-15 in New York.

The plan faces an uncertain path in the Nevada Legislature. Democratic leaders said financing bills, including for the A’s, may not go through if Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo vetoes the five budget bills, which he has threatened to do as many of his priorities have stalled or faded in the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

Under the bill, the Clark County Board of Commissioners would create a homelessness prevention and assistance fund along the stadium’s area in coordination with MLB and the Nevada Resort Association. There, they would manage funds for services, including emergency rental and utility assistance, job training, rehabilitation and counseling services for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

The lease agreement with the Las Vegas Stadium Authority would be up for renewal after 30 years.

Nevada’s legislative leadership is reviewing the proposal, Democratic state Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager said in a statement.

“No commitment will be made until we have both evaluated the official proposal and received input from interested parties, including impacted community members,” Yeager said.