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Dan Bickley

Last thing MLB needs is money disagreement with its players

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

Major League Baseball returns with a money spat. We can all relate to that.

Nest eggs are fraying. Vacations are canceled. Kitchen-table debates escalate quickly. Unemployment rates in this country could exceed 20%. Most everyone is paying a price.

But in MLB, the battle always wages between rich and richer, dumb and dumber, millionaires and billionaires. They’ve done this dance before. They always fail. They never understand the vitriol waiting in the on-deck circle.

To move forward with the 2020 season, baseball players seem to want what they’ve recently negotiated, a pro-rated share of their salaries based on games played. That seems heavy-handed and selfish. Clubs want to ignore this recent handshake, and split 50% of all uncertain revenues ahead. Either way, it’s not a time to pick sides.

The last thing MLB can afford in 2020 is to fight over money, giving fans another reason to turn the channel. To not buy another ticket. To hoist a middle finger. To turn the page for good.

The MLB proposal is also starting with money because there is nowhere else to go at the moment. There is no structural plan in place and no safety protocols lighting a path. There is no clarity on how and where this 82-game schedule will even take place.

“Still up in the air,” said a high-ranking baseball official.

That’s because professional athletes in all sports are balking at playing inside biospheres and bubbles. They don’t want to be separated from their families in the midst of a pandemic. Awwww. They don’t want to take pay-cuts. Join the club, pal. They don’t want to perform on smaller platforms and lesser stages. Getting warmer. They don’t want to be isolated inside a hotel room on lockdown, without fruits and perks of their hard-earned fame. Would you?

There is also great confusion because many MLB cities have implemented special rules during this pandemic, measures that strictly forbid large gatherings of people. These guidelines make it impossible to play a sporting event, even without fans in attendance.

For instance, Boston allows no events with more than 10 people. Same with Colorado. New York prohibits crowds of 50 or more. California is especially conservative, predicting no fans allowed at concerts or sporting events until 2021 — a state that has already shut down the UFC’s attempt to stage an event on Native American soil.

Complicating matters, California also has five MLB franchises, three NFL franchises, four NBA franchises and three NHL franchises.

Baseball has an even bigger problem with its impending proposal. The best talent and highest earners will sacrifice most. For instance, Mike Trout is scheduled to earn $37.6 million in 2020. Under an 82-game format, he would be owed over $19 million in the kind of abbreviated season the owners are about to propose.

Trout won’t earn anything close to that number under the new proposal. He might barely earn a fraction of that number. Same with 47 players scheduled to earn over $20 million in 2020. As a result, baseball would require their biggest stars and biggest earners to take the greatest risks, repaying the sport with their love of the game.

Sorry. At the moment, there is no other way.

It’s also clear everyone in American sports is following the lead of NFL. Just recently, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said he felt optimistic about a college football season after the utter lack of political blowback to the NFL’s schedule release late last week.

In other words:

No politician dares to shut down the NFL, not even trudging on the hope of football in the fall. They all know how that would destroy our collective morale. And if political forces and municipalities feel an overwhelming need to protect and present professional football, even without fans in the stands – which they will – then these regions are also compelled to do the same for other sports.

That’s when other sports must seize their own moment and destiny.

That’s when baseball players and owners can’t be locked in a room, arguing over money.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.


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Dan Bickley bio
Dan Bickley is the most influential sports media member in Arizona sports history, having spent over 20 years as the award-winning lead sports columnist for The Arizona Republic and AZCentral.com and almost two decades as a Valley sports radio talk show host. In spring 2018, Bickley made the decision to leave the newspaper to join the Arizona Sports team as host of the entertaining and informative midday show Bickley and Marotta, as well as bring his opinionated and provocative column exclusively to ArizonaSports.com.
Bickley’s journalism career began in his hometown of Chicago, where he was part of a star-studded staff at the Chicago Sun-Times. He chronicled Michael Jordan’s six NBA championships; covered the Olympics in eight different countries and attended 14 Super Bowls; spent three weeks in an Indianapolis courthouse writing about Mike Tyson’s rape trial; and once left his laptop in an Edmonton bar after the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
He has won multiple awards, written two books, formed a rock band, fathered three children, and once turned down an offer to work at the New York Times.  His passions include sports, music, the alphabet, good beer and great radio. After joining Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, he couldn’t be happier