The long, stupid dance between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association continues, as the sides negotiate conditions for a 2020 season that might be better off not happening anyway, while coronavirus cases are spiking in a country that has been tripping over rakes in its handling of the pandemic all year.
Management delivered another offer to the union on Friday, again offering less than the prorated pay that had been agreed to in March. The differences between the sides on health protocols, which are more important than the financial aspects of the negotiation than the financial aspects, aren’t even being discussed publicly right now. That’s because negotiating through the media is ownership’s tactic, knowing that there are plenty of MLB-friendly channels where the league can press its case.
As ownership efforts to break the union’s collective spirit on the financial side have faltered, a clearly agitated MLB now is finding that the players can play the media game, too — by using their own voices on social media.
Pirates pitcher Trevor Williams, reacting to the report from The Athletic’s Evan Drellich that MLB’s latest “offer expires Sunday,” had an instant reaction on Twitter: “It expired as soon as they hit send.”
Andrew McCutchen needed another half-hour, because the Phillies outfielder put together a video to offer his take. Appearing on camera as a father, toilet-training an off-camera toddler whom he also voiced, McCutchen promised juice for a successful potty usage, then offered water after getting cooperation… then water in a different cup… then water in a bottle… then water in a coffee cup.
McCutchen’s video, a math-free version of the financial analysis offered last week by Mike Axisa of CBS Sports — that owners keep offering the same amount of money for varying amounts of work — racked up more than 100,000 views in its first two hours online.
Earlier on Friday, Nationals pitcher Sean Doolittle didn’t even need any of his own words, just side-by-side screenshots of tweets by labor lawyer Eugene Freedman and ESPN’s Karl Ravech. Freedman theorized that all had been quiet on the negotiation front in the past few days because MLB has been doing all the leaking and wanted to keep baseball media focused on the amateur draft. Ravech, employed by a TV rightsholder, had “sources tell me” of management’s forthcoming proposal, ending with the giving-up-the-game question, “Will players move?”
And, no, Doolittle hasn’t forgotten about the playing-in-a-still-burgeoning-pandemic aspect of the whole thing.
“Having players sign acknowledgement of risk waivers relieving the league of the obligation to provide a safe workplace isn’t erring on the side of caution,” Doolittle tweeted Friday evening.
But it is in line with everything MLB owners have done so far to try to shift every bit of risk in this scenario to the players. It’s just that, this time around, the players are finding that they have a platform to argue in the court of public opinion.