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.