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

jon abbey

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Sprowl

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My wife works at a public hospital. Goes in every day, puts on PPE, and has direct contact with C19 patients.

Because of shortages, her hospital has to pick and choose who gets tested based on risk level. That's the deal for almost all the hospitals in our area.

All of those reopening plans -- MLB, NBA, even universities (my area) seem to assume that thousands of personnel will be able to get tested regularly, and/ or even when asymptomatic. I don't get this -- we're in mid-May, three months in, and testing is sporadic, inconsistent, and unavailable to most people.

If MLB gets to open up because they've secured 10k (maybe 100k?) testing kits while the rest of the country has to muddle through -- that's not just bad PR, that's immoral.
Test availability is improving in many areas - anyone in my area (Syracuse NY) can go right now and get tested immediately without having symptoms.
Isn't it reasonable to expect that by July, the testing shortfalls will have been filled? It will be months too late for safe re-opening of most non-essential businesses in mid-May, to be sure, but six weeks is a lot of time when it comes to validating existing tests and ramping up production. Nobody worries about ventilator shortages anymore, partly because the curve has been flattened, but also because ventilator production has been established or increased in many places.
 

Bernie Carbohydrate

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Isn't it reasonable to expect that by July, the testing shortfalls will have been filled? It will be months too late for safe re-opening of most non-essential businesses in mid-May, to be sure, but six weeks is a lot of time when it comes to validating existing tests and ramping up production. Nobody worries about ventilator shortages anymore, partly because the curve has been flattened, but also because ventilator production has been established or increased in many places.
I find your abundance of faith disturbing. The warning that the US didn't have enough swabs, reagents, and lab capacity went out three months ago:

On Feb. 12, at a hearing on pandemic preparedness, a group of prominent health experts told a U.S. Senate committee that the country has a testing supply chain problem. On March 16, former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb tweeted that "swabs could be a weak link in broadening testing." On March 17, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo told CNN that "the problem is swabs." During the same time period, there were other public distress calls about supply shortages.

In mid-March, the government acted: It flew shipments of swabs from Italy to the U.S. But that still didn't meet demand, and complaints about shortages were still continuing in mid-April. On April 19, President Trump said he would use the Defense Production Act to increase swab production.
Now we're in May (more than the six weeks you mention above). While there are some areas that are in good shape, in others we’re not even close:

[Testing on demand] might not ever happen, according to Eric Blank, the chief program officer for the Association of Public Health Laboratories.

"In my own mind, I'm not convinced that the supply chain will ever keep up with demand, particularly with tweaks in the plans that we're seeing for contact tracing and so on," Blank said at a recent media briefing.
MLB is going to use a private lab, but with reagent shortages, that means the public entities are now going to be outbid for materials. Everyone who defended the NBA for testing entire teams in March, saying "It's okay, the used a private lab" doesn't seem to understand that with limited supplies (and persistent supply-chain problems), letting those materials go to multi-billion dollar amusement industries as long as medical personnel and at-risk populations go without is...repellent? Disgusting? What's the word for "My entertainment is more important that your life"?

Vile? Let's go with vile.

Edit: Typos. Vile typos.
 
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Sprowl

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I find your abundance of faith disturbing. The warning that the US didn't have enough swabs, reagents, and lab capacity went out three months ago:



Between now we're in May (more than the six weeks you mention above), while there are some areas that is are good shape. in others not even close:



MLB is going to use a private lab, but with a reagent shortages, that means the public entities age now going to be outbid for materials. Everyone who defended the NBA for testing entire teams in March, saying "It's okay, the used a private lab" doesn't seem to understand that with limited supplies (and persistent supply-chain problems), letting those materials go to multi-billion dollar amusement industries as long as medical personnel and at-risk populations without is.. repellent? Disgusting? What's the word for "My entertainment is more important that your life"?

Vile? Lets' go with vile.
I respect the framing and characterization, but think the technological concern may be backward-looking.

Instead of swabs, how about saliva samples: FDA authorizes saliva-based coronavirus test for at-home use. I can't vouch for Fierce Biotech as a source, but the FDA's announcement is clear enough:

The FDA authorized its first COVID-19 diagnostic test that allows a person to collect a simple saliva sample themselves without leaving their homes, similar to a personal DNA test.
...
“Authorizing additional diagnostic tests with the option of at-home sample collection will continue to increase patient access to testing for COVID-19,” FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said in a statement. “This provides an additional option for the easy, safe and convenient collection of samples required for testing without traveling to a doctor’s office, hospital or testing site.”

“The FDA has authorized more than 80 COVID-19 tests and adding more options for at-home sample collection is an important advancement in diagnostic testing during this public health emergency,” Hahn added.
I don't know how quickly this technology can be scaled up, but I'm thinking that demand for nasal swabs will soon be replaced by some other kind of bottleneck.
 
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lexrageorge

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If Fauci said this regarding the NFL, how could baseball return?
His quote:

"I think it's feasible that negative-testing players could play to an empty stadium," Fauci said in the interview. "Is it guaranteed? No way."

However, Fauci cautioned that it all depends on the level of infection in the community -- if the infection rate is still high, "you can't have a season -- it's impossible," he said.
There are significantly more people involved in an NFL game than MLB, and we don't know today what the level of infection will be in either July or September. As for MLB, it seems worth trying, just like the German soccer league is making an honest attempt right now. Would I bet any money on it? Absolutely not.

EDIT: And I agree that there should be excess testing capacity available.
 
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mauidano

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Surprised no one linked this yet, Jeff Passan gets into some of the (crazy but necessary) specifics:

They become robots. I think this takes away a lot of the happiness and fun of the game for the players as well. There is no way in Hell they will maintain a curfew of any sorts and adhere to the post game downtime stipulations. All it takes is for one player or better yet a star player to become ill and it’s all over. You think instant testing will help? Look at what happened at the White House last week.
 
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SemperFidelisSox

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Among the many, many worst case scenarios that can occur here, I’ve got one question. What happens if we see a resurgence of the virus in the fall and 10-15 players on a playoff team all become infected? Like, Cole, Judge, Stanton and Chapman all test positive the day before the World Series. I guess this question can be posed to all the sports returning to complete their playoffs.
 

loshjott

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Among the many, many worst case scenarios that can occur here, I’ve got one question. What happens if we see a resurgence of the virus in the fall and 10-15 players on a playoff team all become infected? Like, Cole, Judge, Stanton and Chapman all test positive the day before the World Series. I guess this question can be posed to all the sports returning to complete their playoffs.
They won’t be able to play golf and watch on TV?
 

Ale Xander

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Maybe the owners should just pay the players 10-20% of their contracts to not play, take the loss, and come back strong in 2021 with a normal season when you have pent-up demand and tests and therapeutics (if not a vaccine)?

I know it sounds crazy, but is it really crazy?
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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Surprised no one linked this yet, Jeff Passan gets into some of the (crazy but necessary) specifics:

Of all the specifics that were in the article, the one that struck me most is that players who aren't likely to play are going to be in the stands. I assume that they would be in u inform, you know just in case. But in the stands. Wow.
 

JimD

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I'm sure when the NFL gets to the point of preparing to reopen the training camps, the ethical questions around testing availability will be studiously ignored by all, because football.
 

ifmanis5

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Fangraphs takes a look at MLB's $4B economic claims...

TLDR:
Ultimately, owners might lose money this season, but just how much is up for debate. If the teams play games, it certainly won’t be the $4 billion figure that is being floated. And even without a postseason, playing the games and paying players prorated salaries results in more incremental revenue per game for owners than skipping the season.
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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Even if this "season" gets somehow played out for something resembling a regular season and we somehow walk away unscathed (unlikely) from here on out from another Covid-19 wave.... baseball, sports in general, will not be the same. The financial hit and the level of confidence- unless there is widespread guaranteed vaccines- will be low and will send sports back. I'm not saying good or bad.... but I cannot for the life of me imagine ANY team next year offering Mookie some Trout level contract. At all. There is going to be such a high level of uncertainty.......
 

EnochRoot

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Even if this "season" gets somehow played out for something resembling a regular season and we somehow walk away unscathed (unlikely) from here on out from another Covid-19 wave.... baseball, sports in general, will not be the same. The financial hit and the level of confidence- unless there is widespread guaranteed vaccines- will be low and will send sports back. I'm not saying good or bad.... but I cannot for the life of me imagine ANY team next year offering Mookie some Trout level contract. At all. There is going to be such a high level of uncertainty.......
Would you go back to a sold out Fenway Park? Or, would you prefer proof of vaccination before they let you enter the park?

I see a lot of people barking about their civil liberties if the latter becomes the norm.
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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Would you go back to a sold out Fenway Park? Or, would you prefer proof of vaccination before they let you enter the park?

I see a lot of people barking about their civil liberties if the latter becomes the norm.
Any asshole that complains about "civil liberties" and "vaccinations" in the same breath is a Shitstick. No... I'm not going to go to any packed anythings until there's either a vaccination or a massive drop in infections (and I'll be skeptical of the latter)..... so absolutely no to very unlikely. Mookie has already made an insane amount of money but I don't think he's getting anywhere near what he was hoping to get and I wouldn't be surprised if the entire industry collapses. I hope I'm absolutely wrong.... and I hope teams have hundreds of millions to spread around on players salaries... but I don't see that happening at all.
 

RedOctober3829

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It looks like the foot stomping by the players association is a charade. According to an email on March 26th, the MLBPA lawyers knew then that if games were played in empty stadiums that the league was going to come back to the table to reduce salaries.

A smoking gun potentially exists that the union knew another negotiation needed to be had beyond a March agreement with MLB about how the players would be paid in 2020 if games were contested without a paid audience.

An email from an MLB lawyer to top league officials dated 10:41 a.m. on March 26 was obtained by The Post. A conversation was had earlier on the morning of March 26 between two MLB officials and two Players Association officials, according to the email, to cover a variety of issues raised about the negotiation that would cover rules without the season starting on time due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Included in the seven points covered by the email is that MLB explained to the union officials that MLB would need a second negotiation if games were not played before fans to determine pay and that the union officials understood that concept.

The staredown and absence of talks is based on neither side wanting to flinch on economics. Players Association executive director Tony Clark and powerful agent Scott Boras have been publicly strong in stating that the matter of salary already has been determined for a 2020 restart and no further negotiations need be had.
But the email from MLB senior VP, Labor Relations and Deputy General Counsel Patrick Houlihan suggests otherwise. He and MLB executive VP of baseball economics Morgan Sword spoke on the morning of March 26 with Players Association deputy general counsel Matt Nussbaum and director of analytics and baseball operations Greg Dreyfuss. The union was seeking clarification on matters that include service time and the draft.

But in an email that Houlihan sent to deputy commissioner Dan Halem, MLB’s lead negotiator, that was cc-ed to several other prominent league officials, he wrote on Issue 1:

“Matt asked what ‘economic feasibility’ meant in Section I. I told him it meant that we would only consider playing in neutral sites or without fans if it worked for us economically. I reminded him of Rob’s comments at the outset that playing in empty stadiums did not work for us economically. But I said, for example, that we might be willing to have a conversation about playing some limited number of games in empty stadiums if players agreed to reduce their daily salaries for those games, and if it was part of a larger plan that made economic sense. Matt confirmed that that is what he thought we meant, but appreciated the confirmation.”

Rob refers to Commissioner Rob Manfred.

The union had no comment about this email when reached by The Post
 

RedOctober3829

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Or a charade? This has been going on in Union-management negotiations for as long as there's been both.
"We want it all"
"You'll get nothing."
The players' counsel knew for months that the league was coming back to the table regarding salaries if there were games with no fans, yet appear surprised they are trying to do so. Whatever anyone's stance is on the salaries with fans or no fans is, it should be reasonable that both sides have a discussion about it as the pandemic situation has changed daily. From that email, the players' counsel knew this was coming and the question now is how good of a job did they do to communicate this to the players?
 

EvilEmpire

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It makes clear that there was no ambiguity with regard to the earlier agreement and whether or not MLB was reasonable to expect another negotiation to take place if games were played with no fans.

That doesn't mean that MLB's overall position on that matter is the right one, but a request for a second negotiation doesn't look so bad.
 

jon abbey

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The players' counsel knew for months that the league was coming back to the table regarding salaries if there were games with no fans, yet appear surprised they are trying to do so. Whatever anyone's stance is on the salaries with fans or no fans is, it should be reasonable that both sides have a discussion about it as the pandemic situation has changed daily. From that email, the players' counsel knew this was coming and the question now is how good of a job did they do to communicate this to the players?
All of that is true and it's also true that the owners are wildly lying about the numbers to the players (see Travis Sawchik's Twitter thread from this afternoon).

MLB's only real chance, as I said earlier and then Olney wrote a column about a day or two ago, is for the owners and players to truly realize that they're in this together and to hammer out a drastically different CBA that takes them through at least 2024 or 2025, but I can't say I see much chance of this actually happening.
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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It looks like the foot stomping by the players association is a charade. According to an email on March 26th, the MLBPA lawyers knew then that if games were played in empty stadiums that the league was going to come back to the table to reduce salaries.





Joel Sherman doesn't know what the term "smoking gun" means.
 

Marciano490

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Leaking negotiations is always a bad sign for the viability of talks going forward. How is either party supposed to bargain in good faith knowing their positions will be publicized?
 

Average Reds

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Leaking negotiations is always a bad sign for the viability of talks going forward. How is either party supposed to bargain in good faith knowing their positions will be publicized?
I'm coming to the conclusion that they aren't.

This entire charade appears to be nothing more than a PR play by owners to put the blame on players for the season being cancelled.
 

DennyDoyle'sBoil

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I'm coming to the conclusion that they aren't.

This entire charade appears to be nothing more than a PR play by owners to put the blame on players for the season being cancelled.
Or at least to make the players and the union fear that is a likely outcome if they don't cave.

And, in truth, I think it will work. If things cratered right now I think the players would largely get the blame given some of their public statements. Though the whole thing might be a who cares -- as in, baseball is so close to the precipice of losing relevance right now that they may be spending way too much effort in setting up the blame game where nobody really cares.

Baseball is facing existential issues on numerous fronts right now and they don't seem to have too many people with forward-looking long-term perspective. You have so many people like Boras locked into the day to day battles thinking that they all must be won to win the war and nobody seems to genuinely understand the prospect that while MLS and NHL lapping MLB for "third best sport" still seems farfetched right now, it certainly seems a lot less farfetched at this moment in time than it did three years ago.
 

Leskanic's Thread

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Any asshole that complains about "civil liberties" and "vaccinations" in the same breath is a Shitstick. No... I'm not going to go to any packed anythings until there's either a vaccination or a massive drop in infections (and I'll be skeptical of the latter)..... so absolutely no to very unlikely.
I'm with you on this, though I will add one more development that will make me more comfortable with going 'back to normal': a clear and proven breakthrough in treatment options for severe cases. Like, I still wouldn't want to catch it, but if it seems that the chances are pretty good that even a very tough case would have a treatment that would save my life and also minimize long-term effects...then I'd be up for taking more risks.

That said, who knows how long that will be (especially in terms of having any idea of long-term effects, let alone the treatment of it). Still, wanted to add that to the mix.
 

DeadlySplitter

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the latest: no more revenue sharing from owners, but instead among players instead.


PHOENIX -- Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association began negotiations Tuesday afternoon for the first time on key economic issues in an attempt to open the season by the weekend of July 4.
MLB owners had approved a plan earlier Tuesday and were presenting it to the union. The plan, three people with knowledge of the proposal told USA TODAY Sports, does not include the same 50-50 revenue-sharing split the owners agreed on two weeks ago that was never submitted to the union. The three spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity since they were not authorized to speak publicly due to ongoing negotiations.
The proposal instead includes a sliding scale of compensation, guaranteeing players a percentage of their salary during different intervals of the season, while also including a larger share of postseason money. The players earning the highest salaries would be taking the biggest cuts, while those earning the least amount of money would receive most of their guaranteed salaries, with the union determining the exact percentage splits.
This is probably going to be a shitshow.

View: https://twitter.com/EvanDrellich/status/1265380653014663170
 

soxhop411

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the latest: no more revenue sharing from owners, but instead among players instead.




This is probably going to be a shitshow.

View: https://twitter.com/EvanDrellich/status/1265380653014663170
View: https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/1265390491572539393

“@JonHeyman: Exact percentages in MLB proposal aren’t known, but people involved estimate the best-paid stars — Trout, Cole, Verlander, Scherzer, etc — might make about 20-30 percent of their full salary over 82 games plus postseason. So for Cole, for instance, that’d be not 36M but about 9M”

Pissing off the star players is an Asinine move by the owners. I wouldn’t blame the players for sitting out given the billionaire owners are trying to shakedown the players by claiming poverty.

Case in point I give you the billionaire cubs owner:
View: https://twitter.com/Josh_Frydman/status/1265354158258958337

“@Josh_Frydman: #Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts on CNBC earlier today:

-Confirmed the Cubs receive 70% of their revenue from game-day sales like tickets, parking and concessions. “We’ve already lost half that season so in best case scenario we’re looking at recovering 20% of total income.””
 

nattysez

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This is perfectly played by the owners. Tell the 75% of players that "we'd be ready to play if the top 25% would just take a pay cut" and make the guys who need to get paid and/or for the season to happen so they don't lose service time start agitating to get going.

That Heyman's tweet was dictated by Boras is clear -- the loss to Cole is not 36->9. I don't think anyone disagrees that his salary should be prorated for the fact that he's playing a half-season, so the loss is 18-->9. Still not chump change, but saying that he's taking a 75% paycut is only technically true.
 

Marciano490

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This is perfectly played by the owners. Tell the 75% of players that "we'd be ready to play if the top 25% would just take a pay cut" and make the guys who need to get paid and/or for the season to happen so they don't lose service time start agitating to get going.

That Heyman's tweet was dictated by Boras is clear -- the loss to Cole is not 36->9. I don't think anyone disagrees that his salary should be prorated for the fact that he's playing a half-season, so the loss is 18-->9. Still not chump change, but saying that he's taking a 75% paycut is only technically true.
I agree this is cunningly brilliant by the owners. Why not try to drive a wedge between the stars and the bulk of the players here and for the upcoming CBA. It’s devious and war profiteering, but it seems smart.
 

soxhop411

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This is perfectly played by the owners. Tell the 75% of players that "we'd be ready to play if the top 25% would just take a pay cut" and make the guys who need to get paid and/or for the season to happen so they don't lose service time start agitating to get going.

That Heyman's tweet was dictated by Boras is clear -- the loss to Cole is not 36->9. I don't think anyone disagrees that his salary should be prorated for the fact that he's playing a half-season, so the loss is 18-->9. Still not chump change, but saying that he's taking a 75% paycut is only technically true.
No it’s not from Boras. The owners are really trying to screw the players
Sources: Under MLB proposal to players, a player making $35 mil in 2020 would make about $7.8 mil. A player making 10 mil would get about 2.9 mil and a player making a mil would make $434k.
View: https://twitter.com/jesserogersespn/status/1265416875539914753?s=21

View: https://twitter.com/jeffpassan/status/1265422054880358402?s=21

Potential salary cuts in MLB plan, sources tell @JesseRogersESPN and me:

Full-year Proposal

$563.5K $262K
$1M $434K
$2M $736K
$5M $1.64M
$10M $2.95M
$15M $4.05M
$20M $5.15M
$25M $6.05M
$30M $6.95M
$35M $7.84M

The owners really thought they could try and fool the players huh.

idiots.
 

Joe D Reid

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This plan of having those who make the most take the biggest cut makes perfect sense so long as the owners, who both make and already have more money than the players, are taking a haircut even 1% more than the the highest-earning players. I have some doubts that's true; I have zero doubts that the owners will not be able to establish it to the players' satisfaction.
 

Pitt the Elder

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Has anyone anywhere pumped these numbers into COTS to see what the effective 2020 payroll for each team will be?

Count me among those that think owners should take out some low interest loans to pay the players as an investment in the game and the long-term viability of their businesses.
 

jon abbey

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I agree this is cunningly brilliant by the owners. Why not try to drive a wedge between the stars and the bulk of the players here and for the upcoming CBA. It’s devious and war profiteering, but it seems smart.
Pennywise and pound foolish, they can save money year to year but IMO it is putting the value of their clubs at serious risk (longer-term) and deeply endangering the sport. It seems quite stupid to me.

The most obvious immediate example is shortening the draft this year, which will probably end up with a few dozen players at least who would have ended up in the bigs instead never playing professional baseball, in order to save a relatively tiny amount of money.