This is a critical week in negotiations between Major League Baseball’s owners and players to agree on a framework for a shortened season.
And once again, the players – not the owners – are the most vulnerable to vilification.
Just like most labor negotiations, the players are being cornered by process, narrative and timeline. The process has always been the owners making proposals, and then the players union having to agree. Which means the narrative is always “There’s a plan in place, but we won’t have a season unless the players say okay.” And given such tight deadlines, the players are viewed as the bad guys if they don’t just comply.
After all, from most fans’ perspectives, these athletes are millionaires! How selfish of them to not just take a deal and get out there and play a game, while so many others are struggling or unemployed.
In the words of Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto this week, “Just, go play...understand that there’s a big world around you, and there are a lot of people suffering. Don’t whine, just go play.”
It certainly didn’t help the narrative when Seattle-native Blake Snell made headlines when he said, “I gotta get my money. I’m not playing unless I get mine, OK? And that’s just the way it is for me.”
Snell’s very valid message about health risks gets lost when you have a player with a $50 million dollar contract saying that he’s gotta get his money.
All of this really puts the players in a no-win situation – ironically, against billionaire owners who are the ones proposing these guidelines!
After all, there was ALREADY a compensation deal agreed to by both the owners and the players for the upcoming season back in March! It was a deal that would pay the players a prorated salary depending on the number of games played. Based on an 82-game season, that’s about a 50 percent paycut. And yet, the billionaire owners are citing a steep decline in revenue with no fans in the stands as a reason why they can’t pay the players what they’re owed.
Why aren’t the owners being maligned for reneging on a deal they made two months ago? Why aren’t the owners the bad guys for asking the players to potentially take an even steeper pay cut with a revenue sharing plan that’s never-ever been agreed to in Major League Baseball History?
The reason is because we all want to see baseball – and the owners proposals are controlling the narrative.
Listen, I want to see baseball this season just like anyone else. But the owners – who make a heck of a lot more money than the players - aren’t the ones trotting out there every day putting their health at risk. And I certainly don’t have the authority to tell an athlete to just accept a deal that’s not only unfair financially but doesn’t protect their safety – and in turn, their family’s safety – as well as they believe it should.
Yes, Blake Snell should’ve worded his opinion much differently. But I’m not about to buy into Dipoto’s rash statement that players should “suck it up” either. Because that supports an owners narrative that is so easy for all of us to accept.
And it’s simply not fair when, in a sense, we end up bullying the ones who are actually getting bullied, rather than the bullies themselves.