MLB Agent Sums Up Owners’ Cheapness in One Sentence

In Tuesday’s Hot Clicks: billionaires cry poverty, Ezekiel Elliott is upset about medical privacy and more.
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Never trust a billionaire

MLB owners appear to be banking on the idea that absence makes the heart grow fonder. 

After saying last week he was “100% confident” MLB would play this year, Rob Manfred is now casting doubt on there being a 2020 baseball season.

“I’m not confident,” Manfred told ESPN’s Mike Greenberg. “I think there’s real risk; and as long as there’s no dialogue, that real risk is gonna continue.”

It’s almost certainly a negotiating tactic, designed to make the players think there’s a risk they won’t get paid at all this year and force them into making a deal. But the fact that negotiations have even gotten to this point is embarrassing for baseball. The NBA and NHL have come to terms on the economics of resuming their seasons. MLS and the WNBA, which, like MLB, had yet to begin play when the pandemic struck the U.S., have reached labor deals to play this year

And then there’s baseball. The union and owners agreed in March to pay players their full prorated salaries for any games played in 2020, and ownership has spent the past couple of months trying to go back on that deal. American billionaires have already regained at least $565 billion in wealth since the worst of the crisis, but this group of 30 billionaires is still hard-up for cash. 

Player-agent Joel Wolfe of Wasserman, who represents Nolan Arenado, Giancarlo Stanton, Javier Baez, Marcus Semien and other top players, summed up ownership’s shortsightedness nicely to the Denver Post’s Patrick Saunders. 

That’s the crux of the whole issue. Yes, MLB owners are going to lose a whole bunch of money this season—every business is. But what about the long-term health of the sport? If baseball continues to be roughly as popular as it has been (or, god forbid, increases in popularity), you’ll make a killing on future broadcast contracts (like the billion-dollar deal reached recently with Turner) or when you decide to sell the franchise. If you kill interest in the sport by screwing over your players and eliminating the minor league teams where new fans become interested in the game, you’re going to have fewer people to make money off of in the future. But I’m not smart enough to have a billion dollars, so what do I know? 

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