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Things are getting tense between MLB and the union

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The MLB Players Association and the league have not been on great terms for some time, but things seem to be deteriorating even further.

Yes, there is the potential for some common ground when it comes to a health and safety plan for a 2020 season, but when it comes to the dollars and cents of it all, things are looking dire.

To review:

  • On March 26, MLB and the MLBPA reached a general agreement about how to handle a 2020 baseball season. As far as money goes, there was an agreement that players would be paid on a prorated basis, but a clause in the agreement stipulated that the sides would negotiate in good faith about the economic feasibility of playing a season without fans if that was necessary. There is a lot of disagreement about what that really means;
  • A few weeks ago MLB began to make it public via leaks to reporters that it expected the players to make financial concessions, preferably in the form of a 50/50 revenue split instead of paying prorated salaries. The players, via public statements of union executive director Tony Clark, made it clear that they would not accept that if it were proposed;
  • On May 13 the union nonetheless requested that the league provide it with financial documentation to justify any financial concessions it expects the players to make. The MLBPA has a right to make such a demand under the Collective Bargaining Agreement;
  • Since then a steady stream of leaks from the MLB side of things to MLB-friendly reporters has attempted to push the case that the players are not merely obligated to negotiate with the league, but they are somehow locked into making certain concessions;
  • The most notable of these leaks occurred two day ago when Joel Sherman of the New York Post was given some internal emails from Major League Baseball which his sources attempted to portray as some kind of “smoking gun” that committed the players to do . . . something. For a ton of reasons, both legal and practical, some of which I talked about here, the story Sherman’s sources were trying to create was nonsense. 

Lost in that noise, however, is the fact that . . . Major League Baseball has not yet made a financial proposal to or demand of the players yet. Really, they haven’t. As late as this morning it was reported that they’d be making a formal proposal early next week. But no, there is no demand on the table. All of the demands in the press that the players compromise, fueled as they have been by anonymous sources affiliated with MLB, are, essentially, demands that the players bid against themselves.

Against that backdrop comes this a few minutes ago from Jon Heyman:

Which, yes, that’s a leak too, so it’s not just MLB who is talking to the press about this.

But it does establish that, as the two sides have been presented with the extraordinarily difficult task of coming to an agreement to play a season under unprecedented circumstances that may, in the best of circumstances, be nearly impossible to pull off, MLB’s campaign of trying to negotiate via the media before it even makes a presentation to the players — and before it even gives the players the information they have requested in order to assess any such presentations — has made things even harder.

Nationals back off of minor league stipend cut

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Yesterday it was reported that the Washington Nationals would cut the weekly stipend paid to their minor leaguers from $400 a week to $300 per week through the end of June.

For frame of reference, MLB had agreed to pay all minor leaguers $400 per week through May 31. Several teams have agreed to extend that, with the Royals and Twins agreeing to do it all the way through the end of August. The Oakland A’s decided to stop the payments in their entirety as of today. The Nationals were unique in cutting $100 off of the checks.

The A’s and the Nationals have taken a great amount of flak for what they’ve done. The Nats move was immediately countered by Nationals major league players announcing that they would cover what the organization would not.

The A’s are, apparently, still sticking to their plan. The Nats, however, have reversed course:

One can easily imagine a situation in which Nats ownership just decided, cold-heartedly, to lop that hundred bucks off of each minor league check and not worry about a moment longer. What’s harder to imagine is what seems to have actually happened: the Nats did it without realizing that anyone would take issue with it, were surprised by the blowback, and then reversed course. Like, what kind of a bubble where they living in that they did not think people would consider that a low-rent thing to do?

In any event, good move, Nats, even if I cannot even begin to comprehend your thought process.