Red Sox: Kevin Pillar shares player’s perspective on MLB proposed salary cuts

FORT MYERS, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 29: Kevin Pillar #5 of the Boston Red Sox at bat against the New York Yankees during the third inning of a Grapefruit League spring training game at JetBlue Park at Fenway South on February 29, 2020 in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
FORT MYERS, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 29: Kevin Pillar #5 of the Boston Red Sox at bat against the New York Yankees during the third inning of a Grapefruit League spring training game at JetBlue Park at Fenway South on February 29, 2020 in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Boston Red Sox outfielder Kevin Pillar took to social media to provide a player’s perspective regarding MLB’s proposal to slash their salaries.

Major League Baseball remains entrenched in a heated battle with the player’s union over plans to begin the coronavirus-delayed season. The latest proposal from the owners includes a sliding scale of compensation that would drastically reduce salaries beyond the prorated amount that was previously agreed to. Naturally, the players weren’t thrilled about that concept.

While some fans are unable to comprehend why those earning more money than they could ever dream of to play a game can’t blindly accept a pay cut to enable baseball to return to our lives, Boston Red Sox outfielder Kevin Pillar explains why MLB’s proposal is unreasonable.

Pillar understands that he’s fortunate to be a major league player but it wasn’t exactly handed to him. He used Twitter as a platform to remind fans that he’s worked hard and scarified plenty to earn his lucrative salary. Now the owners want to take a large portion of his paychecks away from him.

A player’s career has a limited shelf life. A select few are lucky enough to last into their late-30s or early 40s but those careers still end decades before the average person expects to retire. Many players wash out of the big leagues long before that. A significant injury could end their career at any time. Players aim to earn as much as they can while they can because that money is going to have to last them long after they leave the game.

The game’s top stars make an unfathomable amount of money but the perception that every major league player is filthy rich is false. Pillar estimates that 65 percent of players make a million dollars or less each year. Many of those players spend the year riding the shuttle between the big league club and their Triple-A affiliate, earning less during the time they spend in the minors.

The vast majority of these players are still making at least six-figure salaries that exceed what most of us earn for a living but baseball players also have additional expenses, including fees that they owe to their agent and extra living expenses that most of us don’t have to worry about.

Pillar provides an example of a home he rented in Boston after signing with the Red Sox last winter. He’s still expected to pay rent despite that he’s not currently living there while the season remains on hiatus. He signed a contract with the landlord and intends to honor it.

The MLBPA likewise points out that players signed a contract with their respective teams and they expect the owners to honor it. They understand that a shortened season means earning prorated salaries. Players don’t expect to be paid for games that aren’t being played but any further salary reductions are unacceptable.

MLB owners are insisting that the loss of revenue from playing games without fans in attendance would be devastating unless players agree to these pay cuts. It’s hard for the players to trust that the fallout would be nearly as catastrophic as the owners claim if they continue to refuse to open their books to provide proof.

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While some people will roll their eyes at millionaire ball players whining about money, we should note that most MLB owners are billionaires. For those of you claiming that athletes are overpaid, you do realize that paying players less doesn’t mean ticket prices, merchandise and other expenses for fans will suddenly plummet, right? Those savings go right into the owner’s pockets. In what world are we siding with the billionaires over the players we shell out our hard-earned cash to see play?

These owners are playing a dangerous game that threatens the future of baseball. Failing to salvage the season due to a squabble over money will push fans away. They’ll tune in to other sports that are progressing toward a return to action without being held up by financial disputes and it could take years for MLB to recover their audience.

We saw it after the strike-shortened 1994 season. Attendance and television ratings were down because many fans were fed up with the greed displayed during the labor dispute. They pivoted to other sources of entertainment when baseball abandoned them. It took the thrill of a steroid infused chase for home run records to lure fans back to the game but we can’t count on a chemically enhanced power surge to save MLB this time.

The latest proposal calls for the game’s highest paid players to take the most severe pay cuts. MLB has enough trouble marketing their stars. Now they want to alienate them more by slashing their paychecks?

In case infuriating your most marketable assets wasn’t bad enough, this also sends a message to young athletes that they should consider focusing on other sports since MLB doesn’t take care of their players. The ripple effect of their actions could have dire consequences down the line.

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Perhaps the owners are right about the economic impact of playing games in empty stadiums. It’s possible that teams that lack the lucrative local television deals of the large markets will lose money. So what? These billionaires can afford to take a loss for one year. They stand to lose much more in the long run if they allow the season to be canceled and risk dwindling fan interest that some clubs may never recover from.