MLB owners and the MLB Players association have not yet reached an agreement that would allow the league to begin its 2020 season. The owners have made several proposals, all very similar in nature, but the union has rebuffed them all. The union has also proffered its own ideas, but the owners have rejected those out of hand as well.
One of the ideas proposed by the owners last month involved 50 percent of player pay being based on league revenues. The owners claimed it wasn’t a salary cap, since it didn’t come with a minimum or maximum. The union rightly rejected the idea.
Diamondbacks managing general partner Ken Kendrick appeared on Doug & Wolf on Arizona Sports, using the opportunity to continue to back the idea of revenue sharing and a salary cap. Kendrick claimed that, if MLB had such a system, the owners and players would act “as partners” instead of the two sides being put in an “adversarial position.”
Kendrick says this as if unaware that he has the power to determine how well his lower-paid players are paid. The league, acting on behalf of the owners, successfully lobbied Congress to amend language in the Fair Labor Standards Act, declaring minor leaguers “seasonal workers,” thus depriving them of the right to a minimum wage and overtime pay, among other protections. Most minor leaguers make under $10,000 per season, and are not paid for their appearances in spring training and other offseason work with their teams. If Kendrick is actually concerned with paying minor leaguers more, he could simply pay them more. The Blue Jays chose to do this last year.
Kendrick also said that such a system would be more equitable. While higher-paid players would make less money, lower-paid players would make more money. He pitted high-paid players against low-paid players. Referencing that other leagues have revenue sharing and salary caps, Kendrick said, “Are we right and the other leagues wrong? I think not. I believe the other leagues have it right and it avoids these labor conflicts to a great extent.”
MLB hasn’t had a work stoppage since 1994-95. However, the NHL had a lockout in 2012-13, and the NFL and NBA each had one in 2011. In all three cases, revenue sharing and a salary cap were the focal points for the disagreements between ownership and the unions. Kendrick’s claims are simply not true. Furthermore, MLB does not have revenue sharing and a salary cap specifically because of the strength and quality of the union.
Kendrick accused the union of negotiating from “a false premise,” saying that “all of this is really sad for our game.” Kendrick purchased the Diamondbacks for $238 million in 2004. Forbes currently values the franchise at approximately $1.3 billion. As Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr. also proved today, if anyone is operating from a “false premise,” it’s the owners. The 2020 season could be set in motion right this very second if the owners, after decades of exponential profits, agreed to eat a minimal financial setback during a pandemic. Ownership never shares the unexpected financial gains with the players, but all of a sudden it finds it incumbent upon the players to share in the unexpected losses.