J.B. Pritzker
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Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker slams MLB players for ‘holding out’

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Today, MLB owners will present a proposal to the MLB Players Association, establishing terms and guidelines for a potential beginning to the 2020 season, believed to begin in early July. Among those guidelines is revenue sharing, something the union is staunchly against.

On Tuesday afternoon, Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker held his daily coronavirus briefing. He touched on the conflict between the players and ownership and very clearly took a side. Via Kelly Bauer of Block Club Chicago, here’s what Pritzker said:

I realize that the players have the right to haggle over their salaries, but we do live in a moment where the people of Illinois and the people of the United States deserve to get their pastime back — to watch, anyway, on television. If they’re able to come up with safety precautions, as has been suggested by Major League Baseball, that works, I hope that the players will understand that the people of our United States need them to recognize this is an important part of leisure time that all of us want to have in the summer: to watch them play baseball, to root for our favorite teams. We need that back. We need that normalcy. I must say I’m disappointed in many ways that players are holding out for these very, very high salaries and payments during a time when I think everybody is sacrificing.

First, people don’t “deserve to get their pastime back.” We are not obligated to professional sports during a pandemic. We are not owed athletes, their family/significant others, coaches, trainers, groundskeepers, broadcasters, bus drivers, hotel staff, cooks, et. al. putting their lives at risk because we’re bored, because business owners want to see cash flow, because politicians need a symbolic victory.

Secondly, the players aren’t “holding out.” They agreed to salary reductions in March, as their salaries were pro-rated based on games played. For instance, a player earning $5 million this year for a 162-game season ($30,864 per game) would earn $2.47 million if there were to be an 80-game season this year. The players already sacrificed. The owners want to renegotiate the deal the two sides virtually shook hands upon two months ago in favor of a more owner-friendly deal. It’s the owners who are “holding out.”

Even if the players were holding out (which they’re not), they would have every right to do so, as they are the ones putting their careers and lives on the line for the almighty entertainment dollar. The owners aren’t going to be in close quarters in the clubhouse with three dozen other people, sitting next to players who spit, discard chewed sunflower seed shells, and inadvertently cough and sneeze in their vicinity. The risk is being taken on entirely by the players. It’s easy for owners, for politicians, for fans, and for members of the media to suggest what the players should do when they won’t have to personally deal with the consequences of doing so.

Oakland Athletics reverse course, will continue to pay minor leaguers

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Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Oakland Athletics owner John Fisher has reversed course and will continue to pay minor leaguers. Fisher tells Slusser, “I concluded I made a mistake.” He said he is also setting up an assistance fund for furloughed employees.

The A’s decided in late May to stop paying paying minor leaguers as of June 1, which was the earliest date on which any club could do so after an MLB-wide agreement to pay minor leaguers through May 31 expired. In the event, the A’s were the only team to stop paying the $400/week stipends to players before the end of June. Some teams, notable the Royals and Twins, promised to keep the payments up through August 31, which is when the minor league season would’ve ended. The Washington Nationals decided to lop off $100 of the stipends last week but, after a day’s worth of blowback from the media and fans, reversed course themselves.