MLB 2020: We're Playing, but We Can't Agree on Anything

Steve Dillard

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Re the discussions of what "economically feasible" means, it seems the parties discussed the need to reduce salaries. I urge you to read paragraph 1 that states this exact issue was discussed.



https://nypost.com/2020/05/19/mlb-thinks-email-is-smoking-gun-in-salary-fight-with-players/

Now, the use of a potentially privileged memo to evidence those discussions is a trial issue. But if the goal is to find the real understanding, this seems to back the logical conclusion that full pay for empty stadiums was not what was intended.
 
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wade boggs chicken dinner

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The bold is incorrect.

Here's a good article that cites from the March agreement. Frangraphs editor Meg Rowley stated on her podcast that they had the entire text of the agreement but chose not to fill up the article with it - but that Freedman's summaries are accurate.

You are misunderstanding Freedman's arguments, particularly given that he's a union counsel talking up (in part) his business.

First of all, understand that Freedman's entire argument is based on a statement by Manfred (I don't know whether this is true or not) that the owners were afraid of reducing the season because of a grievance. He says a couple of times that this really undermines the owners' position. I don't know what Manfred said or how probative it is but Freedman concedes that Manfred does have the right to reduce the number of games taking into account economic viability, but he thinks that Manfred's statement makes the case weak.

I'm not going to argue with Freedman's characterization of the owners' position taking into account whatever statement that Manfred made but the legal fact of the matter is that the agreement gives Manfred a ton of discretion to make whatever decisions he needs to make with regards to schedule. Just because he may have f'd up and said something he shouldn't doesn't take away from the interpretation of the agreement.

Second, Freedman is probably correct the biggest fear of the owners isn't losing the grievance but having to open their books. Again, that's a perfectly fine position to take when counseling a client. However, that doesn't take away from the legal interpretation of the agreement, and frankly if the owners are correct about how much money they will be losing in empty stadiums, the players are going to lose their grievance over the # of games played. Still, in the players view, losing a grievance but getting to see the books may be a "win" but we're also not taking that into account in our discussion about the interpretation of the contract.

Here's the bottom line. You've not seen the contract; I've not seen the contract. Yes, it's an agreement. Yes, the parties have to abide by its terms. But for you to think that there's a baseline "meeting of the minds" that requires the owners to do something more than pay the players pro rata for whatever games they want to play isn't correct as a matter of law. The simple fact that "economic feasibility" has no definition means that the contract is ambiguous and subject to interpretation. Whose interpretation will win out at the end of the day will be seen but as I've stated a few times before, arguing over that interpretation isn't getting anyone closer to having baseball games played.

At any rate, me and other posters suggest that your interpretation might be lacking from a legal perspective. You disagree. Oh well. I'm done with this discussion.

edit:
Of course it's the baseline. It's the contract. If no superseding contract is agreed to, the contract holds. Which is exactly what is happening right now. They didn't make an agreement, so they're enforcing the March agreement.
I think you might want to take another look at what the term "contract" means. Of course if there is no amendment or modification of the March agreement it holds. The question is what does "it" mean. And as even Eugene Friedman points out, "it" is not clear in the agreement.
 
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SirPsychoSquints

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Re the discussions of what "economically feasible" means, it seems the parties discussed the need to reduce salaries. I urge you to read paragraph 1 that states this exact issue was discussed.



https://nypost.com/2020/05/19/mlb-thinks-email-is-smoking-gun-in-salary-fight-with-players/

Now, the use of a potentially privileged memo to evidence those discussions is a trial issue. But if the goal is to find the real understanding, this seems to back the logical conclusion that full pay for empty stadiums was not what was intended.

Pat Houlihan, MLB legal counsel, similarly acknowledged in his May 22 letter to the Players Association. 'We agree with the Association that, under the Agreement, players are not required to accept less than their full prorated salary.' "
 

mauf

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You are misunderstanding Friedman's arguments, particularly given that he's a union counsel talking up (in part) his business.

First of all, understand that Friedman's entire argument is based on a statement by Manfred (I don't know whether this is true or not) that the owners were afraid of reducing the season because of a grievance. He says a couple of times that this really undermines the owners' position. I don't know what Manfred said or how probative it is but Friedman concedes that Manfred does have the right to reduce the number of games taking into account economic viability, but he thinks that Manfred's statement makes the case weak.

I'm not going to argue with Friedman's characterization of the owners' position taking into account whatever statement that Manfred made but the legal fact of the matter is that the agreement gives Manfred a ton of discretion to make whatever decisions he needs to make with regards to schedule. Just because he may have f'd up and said something he shouldn't doesn't take away from the interpretation of the agreement.

Second, Friedman is probably correct the biggest fear of the owners isn't losing the grievance but having to open their books. Again, that's a perfectly fine position to take when counseling a client. However, that doesn't take away from the legal interpretation of the agreement, and frankly if the owners are correct about how much money they will be losing in empty stadiums, the players are going to lose their grievance over the # of games played. Still, in the players view, losing a grievance but getting to see the books may be a "win" but we're also not taking that into account in our discussion about the interpretation of the contract.

Here's the bottom line. You've not seen the contract; I've not seen the contract. Yes, it's an agreement. Yes, the parties have to abide by its terms. But for you to think that there's a baseline "meeting of the minds" that requires the owners to do something more than pay the players pro rata for whatever games they want to play isn't correct as a matter of law. The simple fact that "economic feasibility" has no definition means that the contract is ambiguous and subject to interpretation. Whose interpretation will win out at the end of the day will be seen but as I've stated a few times before, arguing over that interpretation isn't getting anyone closer to having baseball games played.

At any rate, me and other posters suggest that your interpretation might be lacking from a legal perspective. You disagree. Oh well. I'm done with this discussion.

edit:


I think you might want to take another look at what the term "contract" means. Of course if there is no amendment or modification of the March agreement it holds. The question is what does "it" mean. And as even Eugene Friedman points out, "it" is not clear in the agreement.
I hadn't considered the possibility that the players' true goal in preserving the ability to file a grievance was to gain access to the owners' books. I think the players are a lot more likely to get that than they are to win a huge award for salaries for games not played.

Edit: A little background on the legal issue

 
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wade boggs chicken dinner

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Freedman's central argument seems to be that while the March agreement says that all bets are off if fans can't attend games, Manfred somehow waived that. Without access to the actual contract, it's hard to evaluate that argument. On the surface, however, it sounds like the sort of argument that is more persuasive in moot court than in labor arbitration. Imo, an arbitrator is unlikely to issue a billion-dollar award based on a technicality.
I agree with this but one thing that Freedman points out (as also pointed out above) is that the players have realized they have more leverage than they have had in past negotiations. Still, it would have been if the parties had been more interested in playing baseball than extracting concessions from the other side. Both parties.
 

Steve Dillard

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SirPsychoSquints

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Right. Players are not required to reduce. But the owners are also not required to give 100% That's why you have a further negotiation contemplated. And the players stuck to the 100% rate, not giving anything.
Yes they are required to pay the 100% rate. The agreement is very clear that that part isn't subject to economic circumstances. The # of games is what was in the commissioner's hands and was (potentially) subject to economic circumstances.
 

Steve Dillard

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Those two are interlinked because the number of games is tied to economic feasibility, which includes salaries (per the express discussion). If the players accept less, then it is more economically feasible. You can't just stick to the full pro rata and then argue that it remains economically feasible with no fans.
 

uncannymanny

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Is this correct that the players will receive zero money for playoffs?


Under imposition, the deal is spare. Players would receive the full prorated share of their salaries -- about 37% of their full-season salaries and around $1.5 billion total. The postseason would remain at 10 teams. Players would not receive forgiveness on the $170 million salary advance they received as part of the March agreement and would get no money from the postseason. Players would not agree to wearing on-field microphones. Teams would not wear advertising patches on their uniforms. The universal designated hitter likely would remain in place, as it's part of the health-and-safety protocol.
 

Harry Hooper

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Is this correct that the players will receive zero money for playoffs?

Maybe that's a reference to the players not getting a slice of the postseason broadcast and ticket revenues? How could the traditional postseason bonus payments for those on playoff teams not be in effect?
 

uncannymanny

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Yeah, I was surprised by the unambiguous nature of that sentence. Maybe they’ll go through with it for the prestige, but I have a hard time seeing them play for no pay if that’s the case.
 

bankshot1

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Is this correct that the players will receive zero money for playoffs?

This is what I pointed out upthread. Last year the pool for players was about $80 million, in '18 about $88 million. And its all gate-driven, no TV money. This year MLB was going to set aside $25 million for the post-season (14?) teams, or about 31% of last years pool. Now that's off the table. I can't beleive that players would take two drastic haircuts one regular season and one post-season.

I can't even get one bad haircut.

I don't know what the ramifications could be, but why not play the 60 regular season games, make the rent money, and then, call in sick with covid?
 

uncannymanny

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It would be a bold move to say the least. I think it would be harder to follow through on once you’re in the tournament, but I’ve been impressed by the resolve of the players thus far.

Edit: depending on how that money is doled out, it really isn’t a ton per player, no? $80M / 40 man * teams?
 

grimshaw

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It would be a bold move to say the least. I think it would be harder to follow through on once you’re in the tournament, but I’ve been impressed by the resolve of the players thus far.

Edit: depending on how that money is doled out, it really isn’t a ton per player, no? $80M / 40 man * teams?
They usually give their staff and everyone who contributed during the season money too. Really they'd be striking on general principle which is fine I guess. But these players need as many games as possible to prove they are healthy and can establish some kind of value for free agency.
 

uncannymanny

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I don’t know, after 50 games you’re going to tell me a handful of PS games are going to make an appreciable difference? I don’t buy it, and any team operating that way is likely to just shoot themselves in the foot.
 

grimshaw

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I don’t know, after 50 games you’re going to tell me a handful of PS games are going to make an appreciable difference? I don’t buy it, and any team operating that way is likely to just shoot themselves in the foot.
They may as well just strike now then. Pissing off owners is not going to result in lucrative off season contracts if they feel players are just going to strike again in 2021. No player is winning an arbitration case either.
 

uncannymanny

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They probably already feel that way, so they may as well...except for that small matter of 60 games pay.

I don’t agree that an arb hearing will have anything to do with labor disputes, or necessarily side with ownership. Is there any history of such matters being brought into those cases? I assume the contractual language of arbitration hearings is limited to on the field contributions. And if they were striking there wouldn’t be any arbitration cases anyway?
 

keninten

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What if the virus starts up again? The owners won`t get any playoff money. Nothing but greedy owners. They should start thinking only about themselves.
 

PedroKsBambino

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It would be a nice piece of leverage for the players, if absent an agreement, it was introduced a week or so before the post-season was to begin.
I have to think that is their plan--take the guaranteed money during the season and then seek more or say they will "COVID" out of the postseason. The entire negotiation dynamic here is so toxic in both directions that seems actually feasible, insane as it sounds.

Also, losing a bunch of the benefits (like playoff pay) in the owners 60 game offer is why I find the player's strategy here a bit hard to understand unless it is just to bet on a grievance.

WBCD makes a good point on opening up the books, and the player's approach here would make some sense if their theory was 1. File a grievance 2. get access to the owner's books 3. use this info to inform strategy for 2021 4. Accept a rev-sharing deal then based on real visibility into owner's books (and ability to publicize it since the owners would have shared the info themselves, rather than citing third-party analyses as they do now). That is valuable for players, but I'm not sure how truly valuable---they have a pretty good sense what is in those books anyway. I don't have tremendous faith that is the plan, but it would be a lot more thoughtful and strategic than the current negotiation strategy otherwise appears to be.
 

geoflin

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I see this as more of a win for the players and more of a loss for the owners. Until the owners' final offer, all of their previous offers were for about 31% of total player salary. Now the players will make 37% of total salary assuming a 60 game schedule. Since total player salary is about $4 billion, the 6% additional earnings comes to about $240 million, a win for the players. The players gave up about $60 million for this year alone by rejecting the owners' final offer. The owners failed to get expanded playoffs for this year and next year and advertising on uniforms, which combined would likely have been worth far more than the $60 million they would have paid the players under their final offer.
I think the players were always willing to play under the terms of the March agreement. The owners wanted to renegotiate. When those negotiations failed the players still got what they wanted while the owners didn't. As to whether one or both sides negotiated in bad faith and would be likely to lose a grievance, I don't completely understand what would constitute negotiating in bad faith but it seems to me that neither side presented a reasonable alternative to the other during negotiations until the owners' final offer. All of the owners' previous offers were for less money than the March agreement provided so had no chance of being accepted (when in the absence of a new agreement the March agreement stands). The players' offers of more games at pro rata pay which would require a regular season extended past late September and cost the owners more money were unreasonable under current conditions and never had a chance of being accepted. Not until the owners' final offer did the sides get close enough to have a chance of reaching a new agreement.
 
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steveluck7

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Can anyone explain why the expanded DH is off the table for next season and that it's being messaged from Manfred as a concession to the players? I wold think the PA would want that spot to create "more" jobs and keep DH contracts up.
 

OurF'ingCity

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View: https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/1275445503543541762


Nope. No. Hate it. If this goes beyond this season I will Be pissed
Hate it as well. And unfortunately I 100% believe this is a backdoor excuse for introducing this in all "normal" seasons going forward - MLB will make some press release about how the rule "was received positively by fans, made games more exciting and shortened game times" without citing any evidence at all, and that will be that.
 

Patek's 3 Dingers

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Can anyone explain why the expanded DH is off the table for next season and that it's being messaged from Manfred as a concession to the players? I wold think the PA would want that spot to create "more" jobs and keep DH contracts up.
Manfred does not have the unilateral right to employ the DH in the NL. It requires a 75% vote from the owners and since the MLBPA does want the DH in the NL, it will be part of the negotiations for the new CBA.
 

Harry Hooper

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I’m assuming that run would be unearned for the pitcher if he scores, right?
Have they even thought that far through this yet?

Herb Washington will be coming out of retirement. Fans {if present} will just love the 5 or 6 (pickoff throws and pitcher step-offs) to keep the designated runner close to the 2B bag.
 
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BigSoxFan

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Have they even thought that far through this yet?

Herb Washington will be coming out of retirement. Fans {if present} will just love the 5 or 6 pickoff throws and pitcher step-offs to keep the designated runner close to the 2B bag.
Ha, that is true. Get ready for a ton of 1st batter walks as pitchers go extra conservative with an open bag.
 

jon abbey

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Fans {if present} will just love the 5 or 6 pickoff throws and pitcher step-offs to keep the designated runner close to the 2B bag.
5 or 6 pickoff throws to second? That sounds like a guaranteed error/advance to 3B when a throw gets into CF.
 

jon abbey

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Both teams get a runner on second, in the top and bottom of the inning, so presumably the general strategy would be not to worry about the runner and try not to give up a second run, in the top of the inning anyway.

But yeah, I hate that.
 

uncannymanny

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This reminds me of college football players who skip meaningless bowl games when they are headed for the NFL draft
Right, and those are games with no illegitimacy attached to them. Will any players be clamoring to be crowned champions of this shit show season? I think risk of injury for no pay will be a huge motivator.
 

Soxfan in Fla

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What if the virus starts up again? The owners won`t get any playoff money. Nothing but greedy owners. They should start thinking only about themselves.
What do you mean by startup again. Half the states are spiking again at this moment.
 

crow216

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I don't understand how pitchers wouldn't put up a fight about the runner on second. I guess it doesn't count as an earned run, but still.
 

Soxfan in Fla

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Honestly I don’t care if they play. Considering the current effects the pandemic is having (over 45 million newly unemployed) the fact we’ve had this long drawn out fight is pathetic. Both sides are completely tone deaf. Owners moreso than they players but they both look awful. As for Manfred? I never thought the sport could have a worse commissioner than Selig. Welp, was wrong on that.
 

JimD

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The sport of baseball is in so much trouble and it's hard to feel optimistic that it will improve in the coming years. Some folks seem to be picking sides but I can't. Ownership deserves the majority of blame in this fiasco in my opinion, as they are certainly in a collective position to have financially weathered the storm and done right by both the players and the many other stadium and staff employees throughout the clubs. The union did not cover themselves in glory either. The PA's starting offer of 114 games at full pro-rated pay was a completely unserious proposal to start with, the funhouse mirror equivalent of the infamous Red Sox 4/$70 offer to Jon Lester. Clark is an amateur negotiator who likely screwed up last week in giving Manfred a sense that the framework was agreed upon when he had no authority and/or intention to agree to a deal himself. I also think we are seeing that the union may not be as united as they'd like everyone to believe, as Trevor Bauer's frustrated tweets from last night seem to have indicated. Both sides have spent this crisis positioning themselves for the coming war at the end of 2021 and have shown little regard for the fans or the other employees who are dependent on baseball being played in some form. I've fallen out of love with the Sox and baseball a few times (thanks to Buddy LeRoux in the early 80's and the Butch Hobson teams a decade later) and have always come back, but I'm not sure I will get over the current situation any time soon. I think it's pretty ugly now and is going to get a lot worse in the next few years.