D-backs owner Ken Kendrick: MLB has it wrong on revenue sharing

Jun 9, 2020, 9:19 AM | Updated: 6:56 pm
Arizona Diamondbacks managing general partner Ken Kendrick watches warm ups before the National Lea...
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)
(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Revenue sharing — or anything resembling it — will not happen between Major League Baseball teams and players this year. There remains a gulf between the two sides as they’ve struggled through negotiations to begin the 2020 season amid a pandemic.

Yet Arizona Diamondbacks managing general partner Ken Kendrick wonders how negotiations would be going if MLB and its players had been under a revenue-sharing model, one that has allowed coronavirus-disrupted leagues like the NBA and NHL to skip squabbling over money in order to successfully map out return-to-play plans.

“Why is it that we are the only sport that doesn’t have revenue sharing? All of the other major sports have revenue sharing,” Kendrick said Tuesday after calling in to Doug & Wolf  on Arizona Sports. “What would be happening right now — think about it — if this situation would have evolved and we had been in a revenue-sharing model? We would be acting as partners to get back together and get back on the field. The very lack of a revenue-sharing model puts us in an adversarial position when we really ought to be partners and advancing the game and building the revenues because all would win in those circumstances.

“Our (players) union leadership takes the position that’s a non-starter,” Kendrick added. “We wouldn’t even be in a discussion right now if we had revenue sharing. It’s sad.”

Kendrick believes it’s worth advancing the discussion about the flaws of the current MLB model.

A revenue-sharing economic structure would force MLB to institute a salary cap. The argument goes that setting a ceiling for player pay by individual or by team would inhibit how much the best players would make.

Kendrick sees that as harmful to players who are not in the top-tier of earned pay.

“Our system is built around players not having any high-water mark in what they can earn. What that generates is a very few players making even more money, frankly at expense of their brothers,” Kendrick said. “Why they don’t see that as reality and why they are adamant about not building a system, you know, with proper controls on downside and upside and overall caps — there’s a lot of money to be shared.

“Are we right and the other leagues wrong? I think not. I believe the other leagues have it right and it avoids these labor conflicts to a great extent.”

The MLB Players Association has often questioned the intentions of the league. It has accused MLB and owners of withholding financial records about earnings during negotiations, including this most recent dispute.

“There’s so many ways to hide the money,” Cincinnati pitcher Trevor Bauer said in a May video he posted to Twitter. “If I’m going to have to trust my salary to (commissioner) Rob Manfred marketing the game to make more money for the game, I am out on that. Let me market the game and we’ll all make more money.”

Kendrick argues that the players union has access to all the necessary audits to understand team earnings, even regarding third party relationships.

“The other owners and the other leagues — of course I know a number of them — how is it that they are different?” the Diamondbacks owner said. “What are the books that they have that are different from the books that we have? I have made it very clear, personally, there is not a single financial item related to the Arizona Diamondbacks that I wouldn’t make available to anybody in a position of authority at the players association to look at.

“I think it’s a red herring to suggest that there’s significant money being made by baseball teams that the players don’t know about. I’m very sorry, but I just think that’s a falsehood that continues to be perpetrated. Our books are no different than the other leagues’ books.”

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