The labor struggle between MLB owners and the MLB Players Association has been making headlines for the past month or so. The two sides have reached an impasse as the owners want the players to take an additional pay cut — beyond the one agreed to in March — in the form of 50/50 revenue-sharing. The union, rightly, has balked at the idea, calling it an effective salary cap.
In the history of MLB’s labor struggles, fans have, by and large, taken the side of the owners. Despite the teams being owned by billionaires and each team itself having a valuation of at least $1 billion, the players are seen as spoiled and greedy. Hall of Famer Tom Glavine knows this well, as he was one of the most prominent player representatives for the unions in the 1990’s and was directly involved in negotiations during the 1994-95 strike.
Per Steve Hummer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Glavine said, “Even if players were 100% justified in what they were complaining about, they’re still going to look bad.”
As Hummer notes, Glavine saw his popularity among fans plummet after becoming a key figure in labor talks in 1994. He won the 1991 NL Cy Young Award, then finished second in ’92 and third in ’93. But because of the strike, Braves fans and the media wouldn’t turn around on him until the lefty tossed eight shutout innings against the Indians in Game 6 of the 1995 World Series, giving the Braves their first championship since 1957 (when they were in Milwaukee).
There has been, essentially, no effective tack players or the union have taken to move public sentiment closer to their side. Even this pandemic, which threatens not only the players’ own health but that of their families and friends, hasn’t affected how fans feel about the players putting their foot down. Rays starter Blake Snell was recently criticized for being blunt, saying on his Twitch stream, “I gotta get my money. I’m not playing unless I get mine, okay?” Snell received a ton of blowback from the media and from fans, but he did receive public support from Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper and Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, among others.
One wonders if we will see more players like Snell being staunch about their value going forward, not just as it pertains to starting the 2020 season, but with the December 1, 2021 expiry of the current collective bargaining agreement as well. If the narrative never changes anyway, if “they’re still going to look bad” as Glavine put it, there’s no reason the players should hold back.