MLB, MLBPA will start talking return economics this week

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Minor League player pay isn’t guaranteed past the fast-approaching May 31

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The dispute between Major League Baseball and the Players Association has loomed large over the sport essentially since the 2020 season was postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s not the lone story out there. Minor League Baseball players aren’t sure if they are going to have a season, either, and the temporary pay solution put in place to help get them through their own postponed 2020 is set to come to an end… with no real sign that it will be extended, either.

Said temporary solution — $400 per week — came in the wake of MLB being criticized for essentially forcing their minor leaguers to pack up and go home, but stay in game shape to be recalled at a moment’s notice, and all without any financial support from the league. Minor League players, still under contract, couldn’t apply for unemployment, and with no idea of when they were coming back, couldn’t necessarily apply to other part-time or temporary jobs, either. That’s still the case, and yet, after May 31, their $400 per week will come to an end.

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Debt service, and MLB’s obfuscation racket

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Major League Baseball is concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic, and the drop in revenues that will come with a shortened 2020 season, is going to make it more difficult for teams to pay off their debt. You might be familiar with the debt service rule in MLB: it arose from the collective bargaining of 2002, and was an attempt to make sure that teams actually had the money to pay their bills by limiting their debt to 10 times their annual earnings. You might also not be familiar with it at all, because it’s barely ever mentioned by the teams or the media, and even now it being brought up is more a negotiating ploy than a real thing to be concerned about.

Keeping in line with the debt service rule isn’t something that’s going to get teams in trouble with some financial authority like a bank: it’s just an internal MLB thing that’s meant to keep teams from promising to be able to pay more than they’ll be able to. And yet, despite the institution of this rule in 2002, nine clubs were in violation of the debt service rule in 2011. MLB didn’t go after most of those teams: they did go after the Dodgers for violating the debt service rule, though, that was because everyone wanted Frank McCourt to get kicked out of the league. The Mets were in violation at the same time, thanks to the Wilpons’ involvement with Bernie Madoff, but they were allowed to keep their team, because then-commissioner Bud Selig and the rest of the owners didn’t despise the Wilpons like they did McCourt.

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MLB’s return plan doesn’t guarantee player safety, and they’re fine with that

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MLB wants to return without absorbing any of the fallout

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MLB’s owners want the players to shoulder their financial burden

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A few weeks back, Peter Gammons published a piece at The Athletic that focused on how the road back to normalcy in MLB was going to be three years’ long. COVID-19 is and will wreak havoc on MLB’s finances, so, the answer is, according to one anonymous Red Sox executive, to essentially ignore everything the Players Association would consider important in negotiations, in the interest of getting baseball back to normal as quickly as possible.

This isn’t some hyperbole coming out of me, either, check out the actual quote from the exec:

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The U.S. government would love to use MLB as a distraction, again

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A return to normalcy. It’s an empty promise when “normal” is so terrible for so many, when normalcy is what helped bring us to this moment in time where even more lives than usual are in danger, when profits are being placed above the welfare of people and their lives. It’s an old promise, though, and a time-tested one that’s effective in its messaging, even if what it promises is underwhelming or outright untrue.

“A return to normalcy” is basically all that’s powering the campaign of the assumed Democratic candidate for president, Joe Biden, a campaign that’s hoping you’ll ignore that the “normalcy” it’s promising is what helped the current regime rise to power in the first place. It’s a card both the Dems and the Republicans can play to great effect, though, in terms of maintaining power and avoiding doing anything more than acknowledging the symptoms of some real issues. Just look at what Senate Majority Leader and Republican Mitch McConnell has been saying lately, about bringing Major League Baseball back:

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Let’s look at some athletes trying to help during the pandemic

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MLB’s teams need to pay their concession workers, too

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On March 17, Major League Baseball announced that each of its 30 teams would set aside $1 million to pay stadium workers during the postponement of the 2020 regular season. With the COVID-19 pandemic here for an indefinite stay, it’s unknown when America, never mind MLB, will be able to return to business as usual. That $1 million is a start toward making sure those sports workers impacted by the postponement of the season — who usually make less than $15 an hour — are taken care of.

The emphasis there, though, should be on how this is a start. That $1 million per team isn’t going to last very long, not with the sheer volume of employees needed to run a stadium on an administrative level and to keep its grounds in order. Outside of that, though, are also tens of thousands of concessions workers. While MLB and its teams pulled in positive press for the headline-worthy assistance package worth $30 million, it doesn’t even begin to cover all of the workers that make live baseball possible.

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Here’s how the Lakers qualified for a Payment Protection Program loan

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The program that is supposed to keep small businesses afloat during situations like that of the COVID-19 pandemic is the Payroll Protection Program, or PPP. It’s not exactly doing its job — at least in terms of what you might imagine that job to be — for a number of reasons, one of which merits mention here, thanks to the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers.

The Lakers received a $4.6 million loan from the PPP. The Lakers, who are worth $4.4 billion according to Forbes, who generated nearly half-a-billion in revenue (and $178 million in operating income) just last season despite being a garbage fire, received nearly $5 million from a government program, and at the expense, hypothetically, of some Los Angeles-based business or another that isn’t worth 10 figures.

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