If Major League Baseball (MLB) gets its way, the words “play ball” will echo in empty parks nationwide starting in July.
MLB owners are pitching a proposal to play about half the number of games, 82, for the 2020 season, without fans, according to ESPN.
But before the first pitch is tossed, Commissioner Robert Manfred Jr. must present the plan to the MLB Players Association, the union that represents its members on 30 teams. The meeting is expected to take place on Tuesday (May 12).
Among the questions at the top of the Association’s list will be player safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But like most union-management negotiations, the primary issue will be pay. ESPN reported the owners agreed to a 50-50 split of revenues with players, such as television and advertising rights, in a conference call on Monday (May 11).
But The Union Has Called Foul
The union will likely argue that a March 26 deal between the sides provided players would forfeit one day of pay for each game lost. For example, a player who earns $11 million annually would give up $67,901 for each lost game.
Players Association Executive Director Anthony Clark told The Athletic that 50-50 is a non-starter.
“A system that restricts player pay based on revenues is a salary cap, period,” Clark told the news service. “… That the league is trying to take advantage of a global health crisis to get what they’ve failed to achieve in the past, and to anonymously negotiate through the media for the last several days, suggests they know exactly how this will be received.”
But Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist at Smith College, said the owners’ idea could work.
“It makes perfect economic sense, but politically it will be a struggle because the players insist it’s a salary cap in disguise,” Zimbalist told PYMNTS. “But the owners can be clear to say they need to do it in this extraordinary year and they would likely put something in writing to say this is about this year and this year only.”
If the parties can negotiate an agreement for a fanless season, it would likely be a boon for restaurants continuing to offer takeout while their dining rooms remain closed. Hungry baseball fans need food.
A survey by 10,000 customers by Upserve.com found a 169 percent increase in online food ordering from February through April as customers opted for takeout amid the shutdown of restaurants during the coronavirus. That increase resulted in an 840 percent increase in weekly sales via online ordering, the survey said.
“We saw that a handful of restaurants were not only surviving but meeting or exceeding pre-COVID-19 sales levels despite having zero dine-in revenue,” researchers said in the report.
It’s likely restaurants will see an uptick in orders on game days, an economic bright light in the darkness of the pandemic.