MLB, Players Union Facing Pivotal Week In Discussions On Return
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is "set to make his economic pitch" today to the MLBPA, and there is a "spark of optimism that the recent cold war between the sides has thawed enough to get a deal done and return the sport to the field," according to David Lennon of NEWSDAY. This week is the "biggest to date for baseball since spring training was halted." Sources said that there "already have been productive back-and-forth discussions on finalizing the health and safety protocols," so the "last remaining obstacle boils down to money, as it traditionally does." Lennon notes fighting over fiscal matters "invokes the more visceral reaction that we’ve seen from both sides in recent weeks." However, now that "we’ve reached the critical stage of these negotiations," one can "expect cooler heads to prevail." Lennon: "The bottom line is that a deal needs to get done. Period. And with spring training 2.0 targeted for early June -- followed by Opening Day in July -- all of this has to get wrapped up in about a week or so. Nothing is a better motivator than a fast-approaching deadline, and failure is not an option here" (NEWSDAY, 5/26).
SPARK OF PESSIMISM: SPORTS BUSINESS JOURNAL's Eric Prisbell reports there is "one sentiment coloring the process that both sides can agree on: mutual distrust." Sources "paint a picture of a fundamental, if unsurprising, dispute over money." Specifically: "How much revenue would be lost in a shortened 82-game season played in empty ballparks?" Players "want to see details to know if owners are indeed facing the dire financial situation they claim." When asked what happens if the union does not budge from its stance on sticking to the plan for prorated salaries, a source said, "The economics just don't work. I just don’t think there is a good understanding of how devastating this is economically" (SPORTS BUSINESS JOURNAL, 5/25 issue).
THE TIME IS NOW: In Dallas, Evan Grant writes, "All that matters this week is everything." If a baseball season "is to be saved, if MLB is, as it has often said, to be part of the healing of America, then this is the week to either put up or continue to recede from the nation’s consciousness." There is "only one way to win this: to play baseball, providing the coronavirus does not roar back" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 5/26). In Minneapolis, La Velle Neal III writes deadlines "can be a good thing," and "perhaps that's what's needed for baseball to begin by early July." Nothing "would approach normalcy like the start of the MLB season -- even if it is in front of empty stadiums -- during the July 4th weekend" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/26). In Seattle, Larry Stone wrote this next week or so will be the "most significant of a season that will be remembered forever, even if they play just 82 games -- or zero" (SEATTLE TIMES, 5/24).
ROOM FOR GROWTH? In Boston, Sean McAdam asked, "Why can't Major League Baseball be more like the NBA? Or, put another way, why can't Rob Manfred be more like Adam Silver?" Why is it that while MLB and its players "conduct an embarrassingly public squabble over pay, the NBA boldly moves ahead with designs to stage its postseason without any of the internal rancor, without the tone-deaf proclamations from millionaire players and billionaire owners?" The "answer, it seems to be, can [be] found in the commissioner's office." Silver has "smartly invited the players under the league's tent and let them know that, since they're largely responsible for the game's enormous growth in recent decades, they're also entitled to a say in how the league operates." McAdam: "Could you imagine Manfred doing that? No chance." In his roughly five years on the job, Manfred has "never once shown an inclination to involve the players in solving some of the challenges faced by the game" (BOSTON SPORTS JOURNAL, 5/24).