Let's Talk About What Owners Make for a Change
I miss baseball. Like, a lot. Like many of you, I've been watching old games and clips of old games and hoping that there might be some way the guys can get on the field this year. Let me tell you this, though--my day job gives me a lot of perspectives on the COVID-19 pandemic that not everyone has, and it's not a joke, or a conspiracy, or anything we can just dismiss and hope goes away with the warm weather. COVID-19 has killed on average more than twice as many people per day than the flu since it came on the scene in the U.S. It's super contagious and it sucks.
I'm fully in the camp that if any sports are played this year, in the time before a COVID-19 vaccine is available, it must be done with the greatest amount of concern for the health of the players, coaches, and support staff. There must be daily testing, track-and-trace measures in place, and every possible contingency measure to ensure that the players' health is top priority so they're not endangering themselves or their loved ones. I mean, can you imagine Sparkles contracting Coronavirus and unknowingly taking it home to either of these angels just because we demanded he play?
As of this writing, the owners have presented to the players a proposal to jumpstart a truncated season in July, and the two sides have begun discussions. Included in the proposal is a 50/50 revenue split. This could raise or reduce the players' 2020 salaries based on the amount of revenue teams receive during both this year's regular season and the postseason.
Oh... did I mention that the players have already agreed to prorate their 2020 season salaries based on the number of games actually played? Yes, the billionaires are asking their employees to potentially (and in my opinion, likely) reduce their (already agreed upon contractual) salary cut to absorb their losses. Where I come from, in a free market system, a contract is a contract, no? Not to mention I sure wouldn't want to be the one to have to propose this to Mad Max, even over Zoom.
And while the players are risking contracting COVID-19 along with their usual injuries for our amusement for a super, extra reduced salary, what will the owners be doing?
Maybe you can picture it differently, but I honestly don't see Ricketts or Hal Steinbrenner or Derek Jeter or Peter Angelos or Mark Attanasio or any of baseball's owners strolling around the ballparks daily watching their guys play during these conditions. No, they just want their advertising and their merch sales and all the revenue that comes with having televised games so the 2020 season isn't a total bust.
Trust me, I get it. My dad was a business owner, and lived with all the ebbs and flows that came along with it. The free market system can be as cruel as it can be fantastic when you're the person at the top. However, my dad was not a billionaire with multiple business ventures that could afford to absorb some losses during a national emergency so that his customers could enjoy his product, like baseball's owners can. The very ability to buy a professional sports franchise means that you are already filthy rich, and are making another investment to increase your wealth. People love sporps! I'd do it if I was a billionaire, too!
The real problem here is that while the media pores over every cent that every top dollar player makes every offseason, but not one of us really knows what baseball's owners make from their teams. This gives ownership all of the leverage in a situation like this. If the players turn down their proposal, the owners can easily shift the blame and trade on fan loyalty over those "spoiled, millionaire players." You don't get to watch baseball games this year? It's all their fault, stupid, greedy players! Despite the fact that the owners need the players to have a product as much as the players need the teams to have a job.
And while we know that Bryce Harper has a $330 million contract, we have no clue what Phillies owner John S. Middleton will pocket in that same thirteen year time span. How about what Hal Steinbrenner rakes in from the Yankees? And while the A's and Pirates continue to pay their players relative peanuts and treat their fans like second class citizens, I'm sure John Fisher and Robert Nutting don't retain ownership of those franchises out of the goodness of their hearts. After all, if any baseball owner sold their team right this second, the very minimum they'd make is $980 million according to Forbes:
Do you know what I would really like? Spotrac for owners--a site that tracks the yearly net income each owner in a team's ownership group actually pockets from the team. If we knew, for example, that Tom Ricketts was pocketing $80 million every year from his Cubs ownership alone, would we continue to care so much about what the players make? And if we had such a resource, maybe the media could harp on it ad nauseum during the offseason whenever a free agent is rumored to be negotiating with a team. "Reports are that the Cubs are in talks with starting pitcher Marcus Stroman. The deal being discussed is somewhere in the neighborhood of 8 years, $160 million, which is chump change for Tom Ricketts who makes half of that in a year!" Yeah, I think I like the sound of that. Maybe Tony Clark needs to make that a condition of the next CBA, because we all know how much rich people love divulging their income streams!