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D-backs’ Ken Kendrick: Players’ stance on prorated salaries a ‘false premise’

The ticket office windows of Chase Field are closed on March 26, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Arizona Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick asserted that the premise players are negotiating from is not an honest one as Major League Baseball and its players try to bridge a gap and return to play.

When the coronavirus pandemic brought the sports world to a screeching halt in March, players and owners negotiated an agreement that stipulated how a variety of issues would be addressed with such a disruption to the sport both on and off the field. Players agreed then to play for a prorated salary, getting paid a portion of their normal salary that’s proportionate to the number of games played. Since then, players have expressed unwillingness to budge further and take more of a pay cut.

Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer issued a statement in late May that said, in part, “We have previously negotiated a pay cut in the version of prorated salaries, and there’s no justification to accept a 2nd pay cut based upon the current information the union has received.”

Kendrick, after calling in to Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf on Tuesday, said the idea that owners are committed to the prorated salaries is false.

“I think we have been negotiating from the standpoint that there is a false premise that the agreement reached in early March required a pro-rata salaries to be paid. That’s just not accurate,” Kendrick said. “And it’s so inaccurate that it just infuriates me every time I — I know that’s the position the players are taking. I believe they’re heavily influenced by outside forces to take that position. But that was built around the idea that we would come back and play baseball under normal circumstances.

“I think in March, we weren’t really, any of us, thinking it was likely we would lose the fans from our game. But we are going to lose the fans from our game, in terms of being in the ballpark, that is. And the economics totally change when that happens. And for any reasonable group to have agreed that you would pay your employees, if you will, the same amount of money if you have half the revenue versus all the revenue, that’s unthinkable. No one would enter into an agreement that would obligate them to do so.”

The New York Post’s Joel Sherman reported on an uncovered email that appears to corroborate Kendrick’s point. The sender and receiver are redacted on an uploaded image of the email, but Sherman reports the email is from an MLB lawyer to league officials and it documents some of the details of the agreement reached in March between players and owners:

“I reminded [players association deputy general counsel Matt Nussbaum] of [commissioner] Rob [Manfred]’s comments at the outset that playing in empty stadiums did not work for us economically. But I said, for example, that we might be willing to have a conversation about playing some limited number of games in empty stadiums if players agreed to reduce their daily salaries for those games, and if it was part of a larger plan that made economic sense. Matt confirmed that that is what he thought we meant, but appreciated the confirmation.”

Most recently, MLB reportedly made a proposal to players that offered 75% of prorated salary and a 76-game season. Players must give an answer on that proposal by Wednesday.

Kendrick further explained that he felt the two sides in this negotiation weren’t pursing a win-win situation.

“If you get into a win-lose in a business negotiation, it usually ends badly,” Kendrick said. “Both parties need to feel that their positions are being appropriately protected. And I think we have a situation here where the union staked out a position that is a false premise, and that if they move away from that, they will have lost. And I believe that’s a false narrative, and yet they’ve negotiated from that point of view and they haven’t budged from it, and I think it’s led us into a very dark place and I’m very sorry that we’re there. And I think at the end, all of this is really sad for our game.”


Doug & Wolf

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