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D-backs’ Ken Kendrick: 114-game MLB players proposal is a ‘non-starter’

Arizona Diamondbacks managing general partner Ken Kendrick watches warm ups before the National League Divisional Series game three against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Chase Field on October 9, 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

The reported proposal from the MLB Players Association to have a 114-game season this year is not something he’s in favor of, D-backs owner Ken Kendrick told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo on Tuesday.

“In a word, it’s a non-starter,” he said. “There is not enough there to even get into a discussion about in terms of detail. The 114 games if you look at it would take baseball literally into the month of December. We all need to not forget that part of what has been in the air and much discussion from the player side as well as the owner side about the health crisis that we’ve all been facing. We’re all fearful that the virus could return at a very aggressive level later this year.

“We don’t want to take the risk of putting our players at jeopardy and our game in peril to be playing games beyond the end of October. So our model is and will never be changed that we will not be playing baseball in the month of November or later.”

Kendrick said an agreement from the players in March to have pro-rated salaries based on games played would need to be further negotiated in the event that the sport is forced to return without fans, and that scenario now seems highly likely.

He also underscored the financial losses teams will take after the coronavirus pandemic prevented MLB from beginning its season on time. He said every team would lose well north of $50 million this year and many teams would lose more money by playing games than not playing at all. Still, he’s in favor of returning and is optimistic that baseball will be played this year.

“Every single team will have enormous losses,” Kendrick said. “The question is how great will our losses be?”

“We owe it to the game, independent of our bank accounts, independent of our players’ wealth, the owners’ wealth, we owe it to the game. The game is bigger than all of us. We just can’t let the season go by. We have the chance to be a healing force in a very difficult setting that we all live in.”

That said, Kendrick expressed concern over how lost revenues would negatively impact the sport going forward and said the owners are just trying to mitigate those losses as much as possible. The aggregate payroll of players throughout MLB in 2021 and the willingness of fans to gather in stadiums next year could both be reduced because of this pandemic.

He advocated for the use of a sliding scale structure that has been proposed already, wherein players whose salaries are in the highest tier would take the largest paycuts. Players who already make close to league minimum wouldn’t suffer as much of the burden.

“I think it’s a similar way to how other businesses — and let’s use the Arizona Diamondbacks and the challenges that we face with our employee group off the field — we have made publicly known that we have undertaken a plan to reduce salaries across the board,” Kendrick said. “Every single employee of the team is taking a salary reduction, and those at the higher end are taking a much greater reduction than those at the lower end.

“Every [player] is being paid well beyond any normal person. The minimum salary is north of $550,000. But still, the concept of fair play is in a time of strife, in a time of stress, when economics are upside down, those that can afford to take the bigger sacrifices, in my opinion, should. … That model was what we applied.”

Kendrick also gave insight into how far away we potentially are from seeing MLB games in 2020.

“Unless we’re able to come to some agreement in the next week to 10 days, playing baseball, regular games, in early July, is not likely,” he said. “The legitimacy of playing without appropriate training is a non-starter. So we owe it to the players to give them adequate training time. They’re asking for three weeks. I don’t think that’s unreasonable.”

Kendrick expressed willingness to reveal internal financial details to the appropriate parties.

“I’m tired of listening to the B.S. propagated by third parties that are not in the union that are driving the union scenario that we are not giving honest information, which is not true.”

That comment prompted a question about one specific third party, Scott Boras, the well-known player agent who told his clients in a memo not to bail out owners.

“I don’t think it’s helpful. I don’t think he has any real role to play in telling the union how to negotiate, how to run its business,” Kendrick said. “He should be focused on his individual players and their contracts. And really, frankly, I’m tired of hearing his name and really don’t have any more commet to make about him.”

Burns & Gambo

D-backs Interviews and Segments