MLB Asking Players to Take Another Pay Cut or Never Play Until Fans Return is an Insultingly False Choice

MLB Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark
MLB Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark / Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Remember when there was tremendous optimism that the 2020 Major League Baseball season would begin on Fourth of July weekend? Yeah, that seems like a lifetime ago.

Commissioner Rob Manfred and the league's owners sent a proposal to the players' union outlining how to start the upcoming campaign during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. While plenty of players are concerned about putting their health and the wellbeing at risk, as well as that of their families, there's been another factor that's holding back progress in negotiations.

On Tuesday, MLB insider Jon Heyman revealed that the league gave the MLB Players Association two options: either play on a significant pay cut or wait as long as it takes for fans to be allowed back into stadiums once the threat of COVID-19 has subsided.

This is a rather ruthless move by the MLB, a league run by billionaire owners whose bank accounts dwarf those of any active player by orders of magnitude. If this is truly the ultimatum that the owners are offering to players, then we'd suggest putting away your favorite jerseys and baseball caps. A 2020 season sadly won't happen.

Back in March, both the league and the MLBPA reportedly agreed to a 50-50 revenue split, in which every player's salary would be prorated. In translation, if the league is to play an 82-game season, then the players would get effectively half of their intended salary in 2020.

In the union's eyes, the hurdle had passed. It was done. Finished.

But in recent weeks, the league has urged its athletes to take yet another pay cut, as they stress that each team will lose approximately $640,000 per game due to the lack of gate revenue at ballparks That, of course, hasn't gone over well with an outspoken few (including Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Blake Snell and Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper). Players have even urged the league to hand over corroborating financial documents if they truly think that playing a season without fans would be as crippling as they say.

That was when the league laid down the law: either sacrifice even more in order to get over the financial crunch, or don't play baseball at all until fans can attend games. With a COVID-19 vaccine perhaps 12 to 18 months away -- but possibly even more -- this is a false choice. A sneering negotiating tactic. And baseball fans deserve better.