I turned three years old during the 1994-1995 Major League Baseball strike. I cannot recall a single memory of my own from the strike – learning about it from my father over countless dinners and at the ballpark. For the longest time, I felt that I could not form my own opinion on the matter. After all, I was only three, I didn’t realize the game that would shape my entire life wasn’t being played. I am now 28 years old and it is very noticeable that baseball is not being played.
There is no denying that Major League Baseball changed after the strike. The Montreal Expos never recovered and eventually moved, becoming the Washington Nationals in 2004 – 10 years after their dream season was abruptly ended. Fans were shaken, they were angry and ultimately many gave up on the game completely. Three men went into Shea Stadium with t-shirts inscribed with “Greed” leaped onto the field and tossed $160 in $1 bills at players’ feet. A fan paid for a plane to fly over Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati that carried a banner saying, “Owners & Players: To hell with all of you!”
And yet, here we are in 2020 and watching it all unfold right in front of our eyes through social media. A modern-day clash of the titans between the Players and Owners.
The possible cancellation of the 2020 season would leave Major League Baseball fighting for breath as other sports return and try to find, at least a small bit of normalcy for the fans and players. With the national economic crisis, there are not many fans left that want to hear about the battle for money between baseball players and baseball team owners.
It’s simple. The union wants the league to honor the agreements from March when everything came to a screaming halt due to COVID-19 – it stipulated that players would receive salaries on a prorated, per-game basis. But it will not be that simple for anyone because the league wants a new agreement that will account for the season that will at least start without fans. Its initial proposal with a tiered salary structure drew the same reaction from players as the earlier suggestion of a 50-50 revenue split did.
They aren’t having it.
The union will consult with the baseball players before officially rejecting the proposal given yesterday and unless you live under a rock, it’s quite obvious through social media that many players are not happy with the current situation.
Under yesterday’s proposal, the highest-paid players would receive the highest reduction (i.e. a player making $35M would make $7.84M) and the lowest-paid players would receive a small reduction (i.e. a player making $563,500 would make $262,000), per Jeff Passan on Twitter.
And yes, I know that most people who are baseball fans or even writers will not see that amount of money ever – myself, who has been out of work since March due to COVID-19, is included.
Most players and their agents viewed the plan and proposal as an attempt to divide the MLBPA union and the membership of players. They are adamant that this would not work and will not divide them.
Here’s the thing – negotiations need to near completion by next week if baseball looks to begin its second spring training in mid-June in hopes of preparing for a season to start by early July. The NBA, NHL, and NFL are all looking to return despite the global pandemic. Meanwhile, MLB is still trying to work out kinks in the system.
Right now, the next move belongs to the union and boy, it is important.
The players could reject the proposal and dare the league to improve the offer in order to salvage some sort of short-season or they could go with the aggressive route, looking to make a counterproposal that might further the conversation. Either way, the future of Major League Baseball for years to come will be felt with the final decision that is due within the next few weeks.
I asked the world of Twitter if they were on Team Player or Team Owner and as I expected, I received a few replies saying, “Team Fan,” and even a few lesser friendly remarks regarding players and owners. During a span of three hours, 1,652 votes were received in my poll. The results were not surprising in the least bit: 82% of voters were in favor of the players and 18% were in favor of the owners.
There are other factors going into negotiations from health to doing away with the DH and implementing rules that Rob Manfred and company want to see in the modern game of Major League Baseball. While there are many wanting to side with the owners and calling players selfish, there is also the harsh reality that the owners are the billionaires.
Each and every single fan, player and writer has their own opinion and can choose whichever side that they believe is right. Each and every single fan, player and writer can also see that the situation has elevated the stakes higher than ever before for Major League Baseball.
If fans were unhappy and wayward in 1994 and into the 1995 season, the fans in 2020 and into 2021 will be even more unhappy and wayward with social media putting a spotlight on the players for wanting their money and almost crucifying them for it. Between today’s society and the economic crisis we are experiencing this summer, there is a likely chance that many fans will refuse to reunite with their once beloved team or favorite player.
Ultimately what comes next will change everything.
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)