The optimism about Major League Baseball's 2020 season has been belted with a jolt of pessimism this week. Picture MLB as a NASCAR race. The potential for a July start to the season was speeding around the corner heading to the finish line until MLB submitted its proposal to the players union. Suddenly, the caution flag has been issued and the race to the start of the season has been halted.
At the rate we're going, that flag may turn into a white flag of surrender for the upcoming season if both MLB and the players union can't agree on simple economics in a return-to-play scenario amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
MLB's proposal to the union was laughable and, unfortunately, somewhat expected. I mean who didn't picture this scenario: Baseball owners ask players to reduce their salaries even more after they're pro-rated already because of games that have already been lost due to COVID-19. Asking the players to further decrease their income is a way to compensate for the games MLB lost this season and the lack of fan attendance in games, which will most certainly be the case when and if the season starts in July. But to ask players to make these type of concessions is unrealistic.
To expect stars like Mike Trout and our own Atlanta Braves Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuna Jr. to undertake the biggest pay cuts is ludicrous when it's those players who are the reason MLB is as popular as it is.
Now, I don't believe the owners should experience all of the payment reductions. Players need to expect a certain level of financial impact if they hope to return to the field. There needs to be give and take with this type of scenario, though I'm not convinced it should be 50-50. Owners are billionaires for a reason and can stand to take the brunt of the financial punishment.
Unfortunately, I'm not sure this ends well for all involved. It's a shame, too. As I've stated before, baseball is in a prime position to steal some of the sports spotlight with uncertainty about the National Basketball Association's suspended season and the National Football League and NCAA football season. Instead, we're liable to see back and forth bickering between billionaires and millionaires that's not going to sit well with a general public amid record unemployment.
These sides need to resolve this situation quickly and amicably. Otherwise, the future of “The Show” hangs in the balance. The minor leagues have pretty much canceled their season. We don't need the majors to do the same.
—Clint Thompson is a special contributor to The Union-Recorder