Red Sox News: Full-time employees will be paid through May

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - AUGUST 09: John W. Henry, owner of Liverpool ahead of the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Norwich City at Anfield on August 09, 2019 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - AUGUST 09: John W. Henry, owner of Liverpool ahead of the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Norwich City at Anfield on August 09, 2019 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images) /
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The Boston Red Sox are among the teams that have agreed to pay their full-time employees through May despite that MLB won’t require them to.

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred fully anticipates that baseball will return this year but we’re still without a timeline for when the season will begin amid a global health crisis. That leaves employees of many franchises worrying about their next paycheck but the Boston Red Sox have alleviated some of those concerns for their organization.

According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, Manfred plans to suspend the Uniform Employee Contracts on May 1, allowing teams to stop paying employees due to the loss of revenue during the absence of games. However, more than half of major league teams have pledged to continue paying their baseball operations staffs through at least the end of May.

That group includes the Red Sox, who reportedly have taken this act of generosity a step further. Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe confirmed that the Red Sox will pay all full-time employees through at least May 31, rather than only the baseball ops employees.

As for paying the players, that’s a separate issue that needs to be negotiated by MLB and the Players’ Association, not the individual owners. An agreement was reached at the end of March to advance $170 million to be divided between players from all 30 teams. It remains to be seen if players will still receive their full 2020 salaries and that probably won’t be determined until we know how many games can be played this year, if there is a season at all.

Red Sox principal owner John Henry has often come under fire from fans for being a greedy businessman who holds the bottom line above all else. That perception is baffling considering the Red Sox have won four championships under Henry’s ownership and owned baseball’s highest payroll in each of the previous two seasons.

Many fans have disdain for Henry and some of their reasons are somewhat warranted. His socially awkward interactions with the media have a history of sending mixed messages. He’s been accused of using the Boston Globe, a newspaper he owns, to smear former players and managers on their way out of town. Say what you want about Henry, but he’s no cheapskate.

Fans were furious with the decision to slash payroll this year in an effort to dip below the luxury tax. It was painful to watch Mookie Betts traded away in a salary dump. Boston went shopping in the bargain bin to patch holes on the roster rather than spend to upgrade weaknesses that cost them a spot in the postseason last year. Henry felt the backlash from a fanbase that was enraged that their owner cared more about his profit margin than about winning.

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While there’s some truth to that perception, we can never forget that Henry is a businessman, as is the owner of every professional sports franchise. Making money is the top priority. Henry has proven his willingness to spend money in an effort to pair that priority with winning and has four World Series rings to show for it.

The resentment regarding Boston’s reduced payroll ignores the fact that the team still ranks among the top handful of major league teams in payroll this year. Or that the vast majority of teams never venture into luxury tax territory. Other high-revenue teams such as the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers have cut payroll in recent years in order to avoid the tax. Henry is labeled as greedy for not wanting to be a third-time offender but none of the other MLB owners want to cross that line in three consecutive seasons either.

At the time of ESPN’s report, the Yankees and Dodgers were not among the teams that committed to paying their baseball ops employees through May. Neither had the New York Mets or Washington Nationals. Perhaps pressure to follow the pack will lead them to change their minds but these large-market teams have shown reluctance to support their employees during an economic crisis.

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The Red Sox are taking care of their employees. Could Henry do more? Sure, the guy is worth over $2 billion. He can always do more but he’s certainly not obligated to. It’s hard to criticize Henry for doing the right thing when he’s already doing more than most of his fellow owners.