If there winds up being no 2020 MLB season, the blame should be laid solely at the feet of commissioner Rob Manfred.
In this uncertain time with unemployment high, no one wants to hear about billionaires bickering with millionaires over money. As it relates to the prospect of a 2020 MLB season, talk of revenue splits, revenue lost, prorated salaries for players and pay cuts beyond that have been atop the conversation. Why haven’t things moved much beyond the finances? Commissioner Rob Manfred.
With talk of an 82-game season, it seemed easy enough that players would get roughly half their salaries for 2020. Pretty cut and dry, and the MLBPA assumed that ended the conversation about compensation. But the owners took the conversation about starting the season as an opportunity to reopen negotiations, and proposed a 50-50 split of what will be reduced revenue with the prospect of no fans in the stands.
A subsequent proposal from the owners of a sliding scale for salary reductions would hurt the highest-paid players the most. Players are understandably frustrated and Max Scherzer, who is one of eight players in the MLBPA’s powerful executive subcommittee, took the lead to make the frustrations public Wednesday night.
Pro sports commissioners are appointed by the owners, so they automatically work in the interest of the owners. So Manfred is the face of the position those 30 MLB owners take, whether he’d like to be or not, and taking any stance against what the owners want would run counter to the purpose of his job. Scherzer’s reference to documentation becoming public, and a belief MLB’s economic strategy would change as a result, is notable.
Whereas Bud Selig wanted the players and their union to like him, to a fault in terms of how long it took to get PED testing with any teeth, Manfred seems to despise players to the point of criticizing Mike Trout for not marketing himself. It’s even worth wondering if Manfred likes baseball all that much.
That said, Manfred’s wider responsibility is to make sure there is baseball played this year, if at all possible. If anything that idea seems to be moving further away, as the owners propose more and more pay cuts for the players. Based on Scherzer’s tweet, the players now see no reason to engage any further on compensation until something changes. Manfred could push the owners to change their tune, and frankly bend a little for the broader good, but it doesn’t seem like he will.