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Salary concessions being spun by owners as ‘historic revenue-sharing plan’

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We talked in detail yesterday about how the owners are expected to seek salary concessions from players over and above that to which they already agreed in March. Today the owners are supposed to vote on those demands before communicating them to the players tomorrow.

As we also discussed, there will no doubt be a heavy public relations element to the proposal as well. Today, via Bob Nightengale’s report at USA Today, we’re seeing the form it’ll take:

Major League Baseball owners, with an abundance of optimism that baseball will be played this year, are scheduled to vote on a plan Monday that will require teams to share at least 48% of their revenue with the Major League Baseball Players Association this season, two people with direct knowledge of the proposal told USA TODAY Sports.

The people, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they were unauthorized to discuss details, said the historic revenue-sharing plan is integral to diminish revenue losses with games potentially being played without fans beginning in July.

You lead with the “abundance of optimism” to make any resistance to the owners’ renegotiation efforts seem negative. To make the players seem like the impediment to the return of baseball. Then you couch the owners’ effort to get more concessions from the players as an “historic” opportunity. As if the players not agreeing to it — which would, without question, lower their compensation below the levels to which they already agreed — is an ungrateful abdication of their role in “history.”

Weird that “history” is coming now, when Major League Baseball faces the first reduction in revenue in over 20 years. For some reason the owners were never too interested in making such “history” when the year-over-year revenue chart looked like this:

As I said yesterday: the league and its owners are demanding all of the upsides of good economic fortune but none of the risks of bad ones. They are asking to privatize all of the profits but socialize all of the losses. That’s not “historic” that’s “opportunistic.”

All the spin aside, this all comes down to two questions:

First: which side is correct with respect to what the March agreement on salary says about what to do regarding games with no fans? Are the owners correct that the players have agreed to renegotiate salary if there are games with no fans or are the players correct in their claim that the language about renegotiation is about whether or not to play with no fans at all, with salary already decided in each scenario? That should be a threshold matter. If it’s in serious dispute, it’s a matter that could wind up in litigation. Quite a mess. My suspicion: someone will leak the text of it soon if it supports their view on the matter.

Second: if the former is correct and the players must negotiate with owners on a new compensation scheme AND if they agree to at least discuss profit-sharing, what information is ownership going to provide them about revenue? What revenue are they willing to share? My understanding is that under the Collective Bargaining Agreement MLBPA is entitled to limited sorts of data. Gate, TV money, sponsorships, team and league projections, and that sort of thing. They do not, however, get details about how much, say, Ballpark Village in St. Louis makes the Cardinals or The Battery Development in Atlanta makes the Braves. Which, given that they have not previously had any sort of revenue share with owners, makes sense. They didn’t necessarily need it all to make a labor deal. Now they do.

Moreover, assuming they get a revenue figure submitted to them, why should the players trust that it is accurate? This is a legitimate question because anyone who has studied the history baseball labor knows that MLB and its owners are notorious for being oblique and even deceptive when it comes to revenue. Fifty percent — er, I’m sorry, according to this article, now 48 percent — of  . . . what? Confidence in that denominator matters before “history” can be made, and that’s not something that is going to be accomplished easily given the history at play here.

However this ultimately ends up, expect to see more of this sentiment in the next couple of days. Of MLB and its owners being cast as standing on the verge of bringing people back live, big league sports, with only those stubborn, greedy players standing athwart “history,” and shouting “no!”

And then expect the politicians to wade in. Indeed, I’d expect one of them, who is a famous social media user, to weigh in at any moment.

Young Blue Jays say they aren’t intimidated by top seed Rays

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) When the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays opened the pandemic-delayed season a little over two months ago, there was little to indicate the AL East rivals might meet again to begin the playoffs.

While the Rays launched the truncated 60-game schedule with expectations of making a strong bid for their first division title in a decade, the Blue Jays generally were viewed as an immensely talented young team still years away from postseason contention.

Tampa Bay didn’t disappoint, shrugging off a slow start to go a league-best 40-20 and claim the No. 1 seed in the AL playoffs that begin Tuesday.

Lefty Blake Snell, who’ll start Game 1 of the best-of-three wild-card series against Toronto at Tropicana Field, also isn’t surprised that the eighth-seeded Blue Jays earned a spot, too.

The Rays won six of 10 games between the teams during the regular season, but were outscored 48-44 and outhomered 17-11.

And while Toronto (32-28) lacks the playoff experience Tampa Bay gained last season when the Rays beat Oakland in the AL wild-card game before falling to Houston in the divisional round, the Blue Jays are building with exciting young players such as Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

“They’ve got a lot of young guys who can ball over there,” Snell said. “It’s going to be fun to compete and see how we do.”

Rays defensive whiz Kevin Kiermaier said Tampa Bay, in the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the second time franchise history, will not take the Blue Jays lightly.

“We know we’re playing a real good team,” Kiermaier said. “It’s not going to be easy, regardless of what a team is seeded.”

The Blue Jays, who’ll start right-hander Matt Shoemaker, aren’t conceding anything.

Bichette said he and his teammates respect how good Tampa Bay is, but are not intimidated by facing the No. 1 seed.

“I would say that we didn’t care who we played. I would say that we didn’t mind playing Tampa, that’s for sure. We’re familiar with them. We’ve played them well,” Bichette said.

“I think we’re confident in our ability against them. Our talent matches up well,” Bichette added. “We think if we play well we’ve got a good chance.”

NO FANS

The stands at Tropicana Field will be empty, leaving players to wonder what the atmosphere will be like for the playoffs.

Tampa Bay routinely rank at or near the bottom of the majors in attendance, but usually pack the stands in the domed stadium during the postseason.

“It will be different,” Bichette said. “Normally when you think of your first postseason you think 40,000, you think about not being able to think it’s so loud, stuff like that.”

The Blue Jays open the playoffs near where they hold spring training in Dunedin, Florida. It’s been a winding road for Toronto, which played its home games in Buffalo, New York, at the site of its Triple-A affiliate after the Canadian government barred the Blue Jays from hosting games at their own stadium because of coronavirus concerns.

CONFIDENT RAYS

Tampa Bay’s five-game loss to Houston in last year’s divisional round was a source of motivation during the regular season.

“It definitely lit a fire under everybody. It really showed us we belong. … We gave them a tough series,” second baseman Brandon Lowe said.

“We won the wild-card game. We belong in the postseason. I think that did a lot for us to understand that we should be in the postseason and we can go a lot farther. We know what to expect this time around. I think everyone in our clubhouse expects to be playing until the end of October,” he said.

CLOSE FRIENDS

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash has the Rays in the playoffs for the second time. His close friend and former Rays third base and bench coach Charlie Montoyo is in his second year as manager of the Blue Jays, who last made the playoffs in 2016.

“Pretty special,” Cash said of his relationship with Montoyo.

“I really learned a lot from him being around him. The way he carried himself. His hand print is throughout this organization,” Cash added. “A pretty big impact and a positive one. … When they clinched I talked to him, we face-timed at 1:30 in the morning. I’m so happy for him.”