Atlanta Braves wait to play as MLB and MLBPA bicker

Atlanta Braves players, and most Major League players want a season, but the latest MLB proposal received the cold shoulder from the MLBPA.

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Atlanta Braves fans wait for MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and the MLBPA to agree on a plan to start the 2020 season. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

The contest between Tony Clark and the best-paid players and MLB continued this morning when ESPN's Karl Ravech reported (Twitter link) a new MLB pay proposal to the MLBPA. According to Ravech, MLB's new proposal looks like this.

  • 75 percent of the previously agree prorated salary over a 76 game season.
  • 75 percent of playoff pool money as opposed to the way the CBA outlines it now.
  • Teams signing a free agent won't lose a draft pick this offseason.
  • The season finishes September 27
  • Postseason ends at the end of October.

Evan Drellich tweeted that for the players to receive 75 percent of the pro-rata pay agreed, a postseason must take place.

Jon Heyman reported (Twitter link) a proposed start date of July 10 instead of July 4, to reduce costs for teams. In a later tweet, he said the offer amounts to a 25 percent reduction from the March agreement instead of the 40 percent in the immediately rejected sliding-scale proposal.

Mike Axisa tweeted there's nothing new in the proposal; he calculates all of them at a 33% reduction from the March agreement that MLB says they cased on having fans in attendance.

Joel Sherman tweets that the postseason would involve 16 teams, playing three-game series in the elimination rounds.

And, of course, the MLBPA rejected the offer out-of-hand, said it's not enough and called the proposal a step backward.

The rules for a season seemed clear at the end of March; since then MLB and the MLBPA seem far apart as Atlanta Braves wait for games to begin.

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View from the outfield of an empty American Family Fields stadium. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

The March agreement essentially cut team payroll by paying players a percentage of their contract based on the percentage of games played. Jeff Passan and Kiley McDaniel provide the rationale for the agreement at that time.

The coronavirus could wipe out billions . . . in revenue, (and) salaries typically ebb and flow with the financial health of the sport.

Especially acute to the sport's financial standing are cash-poor franchises . . .

It also included concessions, particularly on service time, that the union demanded, and Passan-McDaniel pointed out. (My emphasis added)

Players cared deeply about the doomsday scenario. Service time, which . . .  goes toward determining free agency, arbitration eligibility and pension, was their focal point -- particularly service time in the event of a lost season . . .

. . .  the union insisted that major league players receive full service regardless of the outcome. When MLB relented . . . the deal went from probable to near-certainty.

The agreement also:

  • adjusted arbitration,
  • allowed the commissioner to relax enforcement of the debt-service rule – the rule that I wrote the Atlanta Braves violated for two years -  to allow teams to borrow money to prevent serious financial problems
  • adjusted the luxury tax threshold calculation and percentages. Adjusting the tax essentially means those over the threshold for full contracts will pay, but it would be a percentage of the actual payroll

We don't know what negotiators said behind closed doors, but it appears Tony Clark and crew were so thrilled with their service time victory, they didn't read the whole document, specifically the paragraph that said things would change if fans weren't able to attend games.

Now the MLBPA appears ready to fall on its sword over the paragraph they liked while claiming the other paragraph doesn't apply.

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MLB is determined to play, and unless the MLBPA strikes, Atlanta Braves games will take place, the question is how many and for how much.

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AThe Atlanta Braves are on-deck to play, let’s get a plan agreed quickly please. (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

As Joel Sherman tweeted earlier today, there are a few points that seem abundantly clear in every proposal made by MLB.

  • MLB wants – needs - a season of some kind
  • MLB owners feel they cannot afford the proration in the agreement without fans
  • Any season must end in September.
  • MLB is willing to make concessions on free agents

The union already won concessions on almost everything they ask for; their sole focus is money, and that's short-sighted at best.

Even if the MLBPA doesn't admit (or recognize) it, their members need a season as much as MLB. These aren't plumbers or electricians who go on strike and fall out of public view. Baseball players are seen as affluent, even if the majority are not. With millions across the country, and the world, out of work, players earning a base rate of $535K a year will get zero sympathy should they refuse to play.

A player on minimum wage would still earn about $94K in a 76 game season included with a full postseason and around $67K without a postseason; if they don't play, they earn nothing.

I've pointed out in the past that the MLBPA is run by, and for, the richest players; those who can afford to take a year off. While the highest-paid members lose larger dollar amounts, they have the resources to withstand it. The union's position fails to help its lowest-paid members.

MLB's internal calculations created a maximum amount they are willing to commit to payroll. Jess Passan calculates that number at roughly $1.432 billion. Any number with billion after it is huge when potential income is at best uncertain

Player risk

Jorge Castillo reports (Twitter link) that MLB is now asking players to sign an acknowledgment of risk.  Players feel this is a move to undermine any challenges to MLB's provision of a safe workplace.

MLB provided a list of ways they plan to protect the players in any season, and the MLBPA agreed to those plans. If the MLBPA feels a team or MLB failed to abide by the agreed rules, a grievance for failure to provide a safe workplace is still valid; no acknowledgment of risk absolves an employer from the duty to keep employees as safe as possible

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The Atlanta Braves' projected loss of $65M will grow with or without an agreement.

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The Atlanta Braves could lose $100M this year. (Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images)

Teams are losing money every day, and that will continue with or without an agreement. The only difference is the final red number. Below is the quarterly report for January through March 2020.

Revenue
Corporate and other$22$22
Operating Income
Corporate and other$-49$-44
Adjusted OIBDA
Corporate and other$-33$-26
The following table provides the operating results of Braves Holdings, LLC ("Braves").
1Q191Q20% Change
Baseball revenue$14$12-14%
Development revenue81025%
Total revenue2222%
Operating expenses (excluding stock-based compensation included below):
Other operating expenses-31-296%
Selling, general and administrative expenses-22-1818%
Adjusted OIBDA$-31$-2519%
Stock-based compensation-3-3%
Depreciation and Amortization-13-15-15%
Operating income$-47$-439%
Number of home games

The Atlanta Braves lost $43M before the country went into hibernation. The team is still paying their lease for Truist Park and Cool Today Field, as well as making their loan payments on existing debt.

As Alan wrote a few days ago, the Braves are paying their front office a reduced amount and their minor league players through June 30.

In a 76 game season with a full postseason, team payroll comes in at about $53.1M. The Braves will earn nothing from the ballpark and get a reduced dollar amount from the TV contract. Looking at last year's form 10-K, it's pretty easy to predict a loss nearing triple digits.

That's a wrap

The latest offer isn't perfect, but no offer can meet that standard. The union has a Wednesday deadline to negotiate the proposal into a reality. As time passes, MLB will lower the number of possible games.

If the union continues to stonewall, the commissioner will use his power under the rules to declare a season of 48 games and the union's full negotiated prorated pay.

If there's no play, or limited play, followed by a lot of angry rhetoric leading up to the next CBA, the game looks headed for trouble.

Next: Would 50 work?

Both sides should understand that, unfortunately, neither seems to care, the principles are too busy playing mine is longer than yours, to work together. No one ever wins that contest.