Red Sox CEO Sam Kennedy is optimistic that the season can be saved.
Major League Baseball remains in a stalemate with the player’s association. Owners want fewer games and further pay cuts but the players are adamant about getting their full prorated salaries for as many games as possible. While it appears the sides are still miles apart, Boston Red Sox CEO Sam Kennedy believes there will be baseball this year.
Kennedy spoke with WHDH 7 News’ Chelsi McDonald on Monday to express his optimism.
"“It’s incredibly frustrating for our fans, for our players, for our front office,” said Kennedy. “We’ve had a very difficult time. We’re an industry of routine, and schedule and certainty. But I will tell you, and I want our fans to know I’m very optimistic we will play baseball this year. I really do believe that. … But I do feel that the owners and players are going to come together. … We’ve obviously committed to playing at least a 50-game schedule and hopefully we’ll make progress sooner rather than later because, boy, I think the country needs baseball.”"
It’s notable that Kennedy mentioned a 50-game schedule, a figure that is within the range that owners are pushing for. The league believes, or at least they want everyone to believe, that owners will lose too much money if they play more games without fans in attendance.
Players are skeptical that the losses will be as steep as the owners claim, especially since they refuse to open their books to offer proof. The MLBPA is standing firm to the belief that players are sacrificing enough by only receiving a prorated amount of their salary in a shorter season. They have shown a willingness to negotiate alternative ways to boost revenue, such as expanding the number of playoff teams, but further reductions to their salary is a non-starter with the union.
There’s reason to believe in Kennedy’s optimism though. We most likely will have baseball this year. There’s too much at stake for both sides to squander the season over money.
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Plus, there’s the trump card that commissioner Rob Manfred holds in his back pocket. He has the power to implement a shortened schedule, expected to be between 48-50 games. The players view that option as merely a threat but it may become inevitable if the sides can’t come to an agreement.
What option do the players have then? It’s possible they could go on strike by refusing to show up for the commissioner-mandated schedule but then they won’t get paid at all. Players also wouldn’t accrue service time, as they would if the league cancelled the season, which would delay the clock for players to reach arbitration or free agency. It does more harm than good to stubbornly sit out if the players don’t get their way.
The owners know this. They know the leverage leans in their direction. The league has offered a few different proposals but they are all essentially different variations of the same thing. None of them come close to bridging the gap.
Is it possible that this has all been a stall tactic by the owners? They tweak their proposal just enough to give the impression that they are making an effort while knowing full well it will get rejected. Eventually, we’ll run out of time to squeeze in more than 50 games. If fewer games would benefit the owners then it’s clear that there is less urgency on their side.
Kennedy is correct. This country needs baseball. Fans are craving a return to action. We’ll eventually get it back. It just may not be under circumstances that many will be thrilled about. Pushing a group of angry players back on the field to work for less than they deserve doesn’t sound like a formula for an entertaining season.