MLB has not yet submitted health and safety, revenue sharing plan to players

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For several days Major League Baseball was reported to be preparing a detailed proposal aimed at starting the 2020 season. The most talked-about part of the proposal was the owners’ reported demand that players agree to a 50-50 revenue sharing scheme. Also surrounding the discussion was the apparently obvious topic of player safety during a pandemic which any responsible season plan must address.

Major League Baseball made a presentation to the Major League Baseball Players Association yesterday on how to restart the season. The presentation contained neither the revenue sharing proposal nor a detailed health and safety plan.

That’s according to Ken Rosenthal’s report in The Athletic today which says that MLB “soon plans to present the union with an 80-page document outlining potential health and safety protocols for the COVID-19 pandemic, sources said.”

Soon.

As for revenue sharing:

After a public back-and-forth Monday on the league’s plan to ask players to accept a one-time, 50-50 division of revenue for the 2020 season, the parties spoke about economics as well as health and safety Tuesday, but the league did not formally propose its revenue-sharing idea.

No meetings are planned for today.

To be clear: discussion, as opposed to take-it-or-leave-it offers, is good. So are detailed health plans. If discussion goes on for some time and eventually leads to an agreement on the business side, that’s great. If an acceptable, detailed health plan emerges tomorrow or next week that’s fine too! It’s important to get this right, not to have it all done yesterday.

But in light of that, I am not sure why the owners so loudly communicated that they were making a specific proposal to the players — and so clearly attempted to send the message that, if there is not baseball, it is the fault of the players’ greed and intransigence — if they themselves have not presented anything close to a fully-formed plan. If all of this was still in the broad discussion stage.

Based on Rosenthal’s report, though, that’s where we are, rendering all of the posturing before now — all of the claims, transmitted through the media that it’s revenue-sharing or bust and that the players will be the obstacle to the resumption of the season — disingenuous.

Indeed, I suspect that the lack of a revenue sharing proposal yesterday is a tacit admission that the owners know that the March agreement in which players agreed to take prorated pay covered compensation. An admission on the owners part that they know they have no contractual right to renegotiate that. Tony Clark told them in public statements on Monday that the players won’t agree to renegotiate financial terms and the owners quietly accepted it. Which means, of course, that any and all talk, anonymous or otherwise, in the coming days about revenue sharing or player pay is just bluster. MLB knows it made a deal on that and they know they’re stuck with it.

But there will be more bluster, I suspect. Even if pay is off the table, putting on a 2020 season is going to be an extraordinarily difficult task. Almost an insurmountable task depending on who you talk to. It would not surprise me if Major League Baseball has decided that it’s a good idea to pass the buck, publicly, anyway, to the players and set them up to take the blame if the season doesn’t happen.