Final Year Before Chaos?
Written by: Jonathan Lidskin
One could say the MLB has had a difficult couple of months. We have seen the owners and MLB Players' Association go back and forth constantly on player salaries in order to start the 2020 season. While the two sides have yet to reach a deal, they are getting close as there is now only a 10 game gap between the two sides. Fully prorated salaries have been agreed on along with expanded playoffs and a universal DH. While the MLB has had a crazy time trying to come to an agreement, the chaos won’t start until a year down the road.
The MLB owners and the MLBPA currently have a Collective Bargaining Agreement. The CBA is a 359 page document that outlines the conditions for players and owners in the MLB. You could say it is the handbook for the benefits and rules of the players, clubs and owners. The CBA is set to expire following the 2021 season. Typically, a professional sports league doesn’t have too much trouble agreeing to a new CBA. However, with the recent negotiation tactics of the MLB owners and MLBPA, the league could be facing a major issue.
MLB Commissioner, Rob Manfred, has been inconsistent with his beliefs about a 2020 season (Photo: Fox News)
Let’s be clear on one thing: The MLB players have already been convinced that they were going to go on strike for the 2022 season before the disagreements between the owners and MLBPA began. In fact, the players have been preparing for a strike since 2019. The players feel like for the past 25 years, the owners have had more power in the league. Once the agreement ends in 2021, they are determined to change that.
1. The Luxury Tax
The MLB is the only league of the four major American professional leagues that does not have a salary cap. The league instead puts in a luxury tax. The tax is higher than any cap among the professional sports, including the NFL which has a lot more players per team than the MLB. However, there is one thing about baseball which is really unique to their season. The amount of games. The MLB plays 162 games per season while the NBA and NHL only play 82. The MLB luxury tax for 2020 is 208 million. That is a lot compared to the NBA (109 million) and the NHL (81.5 million). However, if you think about it, the tax should be higher. The MLB plays almost double the games of the NBA and NHL so the tax should probably be about double the cap of the NBA and NHL. The NHL cap is lower because it is not as profitable, but the NBA cap is set to be 115 million roughly, in 2021. That should mean that the tax for the MLB should be around 230 million putting them 22 million short. You can understand why the players would be upset about that.
MLBPA head, Tony Clark, has been frustrated with the owners’ negotiation tactics (Photo: Newsday)
2. Revenue Percentage
This problem is pretty simple. The MLB continues to make more money while the teams do not. In 2019, the MLB made a record 10.7 billion dollars for the year. In 2018, teams were getting 118 million dollars from revenue sharing. You add that up among the 30 teams and together, teams are getting roughly 3.5 billion dollars. See the problem? Teams together are making about 33% of the money the MLB generates off revenue sharing. That’s just a rough estimate, but you see where I’m going. Benefit: owners. While the MLB makes more money, players' salaries don’t elevate.
3. Negotiation Tactics
I’m going to be honest. The MLB owners have been extremely selfish in trying to reach an agreement to start the season. They are determined to play as few games as possible with low prices. Up until a couple days ago, they hadn’t agreed to fully prorated salaries. They also had presented the same offer over and over again in different forms while the players had already come down from 70 to 55 percent of their total salary. These negotiation tactics by the owners will cost them after the 2021 season. If they are unwilling to settle for something that is fair for the players, the players will go on strike until they get what they think they deserve.
Baseball fans who are disappointed by the disagreements between owners and players, be prepared for more of that. We might have a normal season in 2021, but it could come with a price. Tony Clark and the rest of the MLBPA are going to make demands for the next CBA that the owners will not like. In the middle of the 1994 season, the players went on strike. I’m fairly certain we will see another strike after the 2021 season. If you think the MLB is chaotic right now, just wait until it is time for the new CBA.