Rozner: There's one big obstacle to having a 2020 baseball season

  • Tony Clark, executive director of the Major League Players Association, could end up being the biggest obstacle to getting some sort of agreement to have some sort of baseball season this year.

    Tony Clark, executive director of the Major League Players Association, could end up being the biggest obstacle to getting some sort of agreement to have some sort of baseball season this year. Associated Press File/February 2017

 
 
Updated 5/13/2020 8:49 AM

Credit Rob Manfred with continuing to throw ideas at the wall until one of them finally stuck.

It appears the commissioner has found a plan that will allow for about half a baseball season, with several oddities that won't please the masses until they realize a strange and manufactured baseball season is better than no baseball season.

 

Much will be discussed and negotiated before this becomes a reality, and players will have to decide how safe they need to feel before returning. If they need certainty, there will be no baseball season, just as if any of us need absolute certainty, forget about leaving home for another two years.

Furthermore, if baseball intends to shut down after the first positive test, then don't even bother getting this started.

For those who don't feel safe, the simple answer is don't play baseball. If they don't want to play, they shouldn't play and shouldn't be punished for their reasons, which will undoubtedly involve family.

But that won't be the biggest obstacle. No, the biggest obstacle is Tony Clark, the overmatched head of the players association whose main function has been as doormat for Manfred in CBA negotiations.

This is the same Clark who made a deal with Manfred in March that called for contracts to be prorated based on the number of games played in 2020, without looking at the fine print or thinking of what might happen should there be games without spectators.

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That changes everything given that 40 percent of team revenue comes from tickets sold, parking, concessions and game-day sales. But about three weeks ago, Clark said there would be no more negotiation, fans in the stands or not.

"Players recently reached an agreement with Major League Baseball that outlines economic terms for resumption of play," Clark said in a statement. "(That) included significant salary adjustments and a number of other compromises. That negotiation is over."

That's very tough talk, but completely unrealistic. As a capitalist and a players' guy, I have been on their side in nearly every conversation for more than 30 years, but with these extreme circumstances they can't expect full (prorated) pay when the owners are not getting a gate.

That's absurd and every player and every agent knows that, regardless of their extreme public posture. They will have to give back if they want to play this season, or they can forget the season and collect zero dollars in 2020.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

How's that sound?

One reported plan includes revenue sharing and a 50-50 split, something the players have opposed for decades and should continue to oppose. The payroll tax is bad enough in the way it behaves like a salary cap.

It's particularly crucial for Clark to look and act tough if he wants to keep his job, since he's been bludgeoned in previous negotiations, but both sides will have to put ego aside for the good of the game -- and fast.

As with all negotiation there's a way to get it done, and as always it's trading dollars for something else the players want, but after 40 years of fighting against it the MLBPA can't allow talk of revenue sharing or salary caps.

It's not enough for baseball to say that the NFL, NBA and NHL do it. Shame on their unions for agreeing to it. It doesn't mean the MLBPA has to agree to it now or in the future.

But for this season, the players will have to compromise, just as the owners will have to risk losing money by playing games without fans. No one sitting at home without a job or going to the food bank is going to feel bad for a billionaire owner or a millionaire player.

Most players understand this, and they can't let the head of the union sink the season only to make a point.

That would be extraordinarily selfish.

We've all seen the commercials with the players pretending to miss the fans. We all know it's not true, but those are very sweet and well-produced spots where the players talk about how much they can't wait to play games and see their fans again.

It remains to be seen which state governors will allow such extraordinary human freedom, but in the meantime games on TV will be a gift to the fans that the players supposedly care so much about.

Not that the owners care, because they also don't give a lick about the fans, but they understand there will have to be concessions made on both sides if there are to be any games.

This is no time for the players to look selfish. They've often been portrayed that way and almost always unfairly, but you already have politicians like billionaire J.B. Pritzker blaming the players for "holding out," a completely inaccurate portrayal.

The grandstanding governor from the broke state of Illinois clearly knows nothing about it, but that won't stop him from creating a public backlash against the players.

So if they don't meet the owners somewhere closer to the middle, the players could end the season before it begins.

It would be a terrible look, and it might be the one the fans never forget.

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