Trevor Bauer: Players and Owners Feuding is ‘Absolute Death for the Industry’

Jesse Pantuosco
June 23, 2020 - 11:13 am

After weeks of fruitless negotiations, MLB’s 2020 campaign is now in the hands of commissioner Rob Manfred, who is expected to enact a 60-game season per the agreement reached between players and owners on March 26. It’s a disappointing outcome for all involved, particularly after the sides appeared close to brokering a deal last week. Rather than accept the 60-game season proposed by owners, which made a number of concessions to the players including a split of playoff revenue, the union countered at 70 games while listing a whole new set of demands.

Reds starter Trevor Bauer, who had previously sided with the MLBPA by calling BS on many of the league’s listless proposals, thinks the union may have overplayed its hand this time, arguing that the disconnect between players and owners could cause lasting damage, particularly with a new CBA on the horizon. “It’s absolute death for the industry to keep acting as it has been. Both sides,” an impassioned Bauer expressed to his 277,000 Twitter followers upon Monday’s announcement of a commissioner-mandated 60-game season. “We’re driving the bus straight off a cliff. How is this good for anyone involved?”

Bauer’s view is shared by longtime MLB insider Ken Rosenthal, who acknowledged the likelihood of a lockout when the league’s current collective bargaining agreement expires in December of 2021. “The timing of this dispute, though, is what people will remember most,” Rosenthal wrote Tuesday in response to new developments in the league’s quest to stage its 2020 season. “The bitter email exchanges and tone-deaf public remarks came at a moment when the country was facing not only acute medical and economic concerns, but also in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, conducting an extraordinary conversation about who we are.”

Already losing ground to football and basketball (both more popular with younger audiences), months of very public discord between stubborn owners and the equally headstrong players union was the last thing MLB needed. Not only did the sport alienate its dwindling fan-base by arguing over money at a vulnerable time in our history (unemployment has skyrocketed since the COVID outbreak and America is still reeling from the racial tensions sparked by George Floyd’s unjust death in Minneapolis last month), but the players’ refusal to compromise may ultimately prove shortsighted, at least in Bauer’s estimation.

“So we gave up shares of playoff money, eliminating the qualifying offer for 2021, paycheck advance forgiveness, COVID-19 protections, and protection for non-guaranteed arbitration contracts next year in order to hold onto our rights to file a grievance?” asked Bauer, skeptical of the union’s decision to pass on last week’s peace offering. “We’re doing irreparable damage to our industry right now over rules that last AT MOST 16 months.”

Rosenthal notes that filing a grievance, if the MLBPA chooses to pursue that option, could backfire on the players. “Even if the union won say, $500 million for the 2020 players, the owners likely would seek to recoup that sum by cutting salaries in subsequent seasons, reducing the impact of the award,” explained the bow-tie-preferring sideline reporter.

All signs point to play resuming next month, assuming the league is able to proceed safely amid the coronavirus. But the distrust that exists between owners and players suggests more problems lie ahead for MLB.

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