As the possibility of a season start date increases, Major League Baseball Players Association board members Chris Iannetta and Andrew Miller are concerned about pay and health.
Iannetta, a catcher with the New York Yankees, and Miller, a reliever with the St. Louis Cardinals, feel there is a lot of risk on the players’ end to play games without fans in the stands. That is especially true with the coronavirus outbreak not under control and still a major threat.
And in their eyes, baseball players should be fairly compensated and not have to take a salary hit simply because the owners might sustain revenue losses in the millions.
“The way our sport works is we are not tied to revenue in any way,” Miller told ESPN. “If the owners hit a home run and make more money, we don’t go back and ask for more on our end. Ultimately this isn’t about money. We need to find a way to safely get our players on the field in a safe manner and control that. I would hope (finances) doesn’t turn into anything regarding that stuff.”
Iannetta said not only are players risking their health but so are umpires, groundskeepers and any other support staff on site.
“It goes back to not having fans in the stands,” Iannetta told ESPN. “If there’s no fans in the stands, there is an intrinsic risk that players are going to undertake. There is an intrinsic risk that support staff and coaches are going to undertake, and we should get fairly compensated for taking that risk for the betterment of the game and the betterment of the owners who stand to make a huge profit off the game.”
As speculation increases that MLB will announce some plan involving the season sometime next week, the finances involved could become an intense discussion.
The two sides reached a salary agreement in late March that included $170 million in upfront money for the players. But reports are now in circulation claiming the owners will seek further reductions if games are played without fans in the stands.
Miller doesn’t see another cut as an option.
“We understand that this year isn’t going to be as financially rewarding for the ownership groups (but) there is higher risk this season,” Miller said. “If it’s not safe to bring fans into games, you’re still asking us to play, there’s certainly a risk there. ... Travel is limited to essential, and we’re traveling, that means there is risk involved.”
Iannetta is willing to listen but doesn’t sound interested in budging too much.
“We’ll explore a lot of options, but I think there will be some things we’re going to say no to,” Iannetta said. “Just based on government regulations, the chances of having fans in the stands is going to be next to zero. With that in mind, there is some inherent risk to this, and we’ll weed through the proposal and I’m sure we’ll agree on some things and some things we won’t because it’s implying too much risk for everyone.”
Of course, baseball’s plan for testing will be another important component. It also begs the question of what happens if a player tests positive.
The uncertainly on the health front rates as a major concern in the players’ eyes.
“There’s always risks in life, but this seems like something that is very front and center,” Miller said. “There’s still a lot of unknowns. We need answers. We can’t ask guys to go out and put their lives at risk. We all want to play. Trust me.”
—Field Level Media