A proposal has been placed in front of the Major League Baseball Players Association and the union members spent Wednesday examining it. It appears as though the players have already determined that they’d rather go to the plate without batting helmets than accept the initial financial terms being offered by the owners.
Before you jump to the conclusion that the players are being greedy at a time when so many Americans are suffering through the world’s worst pandemic in a century, we have some things for you to consider.
- Players disappointed over ‘massive’ cuts proposed by MLB’s sliding-scale salary plan
- Former Phillies OF Milt Thompson to coach players who missed their final high school season, in new Cherry Hill sports academy
- Phillies keeping Florida facility closed for now, ‘most likely’ would hold second spring training in Philly
Let’s start with this: The owners of baseball’s 30 teams paid a combined $10.169 billion to acquire their franchises. The least recent purchase among the current group of owners was made by the late George Steinbrenner in 1973. He paid CBS $10 million. The most recent purchase of a team was the Miami Marlins in 2017, when Bruce Sherman shelled out $1.2 billion to Jeffrey Loria.
The Yankees, according to recently released figures by Forbes, are the most valuable team in baseball at $5 billion. The Marlins are the least valuable franchise at $980 million and the only team worth less than the purchase price.
If Sherman wants to cry poor, he can do so with some justification, but it should be noted that his net worth is $500 million and he has a $70 million yacht called the Majestic. He could probably sell his dinghy to help him get through these difficult times.
Before the boat goes up for sale, however, Sherman is going to furlough 90 to 100 employees starting Monday. For the record, the Marlins’ anticipated payroll for 2020 is expected to be less than the cost of the Majestic.
This is not meant to pick on Sherman. In fact, I give him credit for taking the Marlins out of the hands of Loria, who had Marlins Park built with public money from Miami-Dade County to enhance his own sales profit after driving the team into the ground.
The point is that even the owner with the worst balance sheet in baseball could handle the devastating financial losses that are going to be caused by COVID-19. Chances are that even the Marlins are going to be worth more than what Sherman paid for them a decade from now.
For an even more despicable situation, look out west to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. We’ll first tell you that owner Artie Moreno bought the team for $180 million in 2003, and the Angels, again according to Forbes, are worth $1.15 billion. That’s a profit of $970 million if Moreno, whose net worth is $1.975 billion, opted to sell his team tomorrow.
Instead, what he’ll do starting Monday, according to The Athletic, is furlough the majority of the club’s player-development staff, minor-league coordinators, and minor-league coaches. Pro and international scouting staff and members of the analytics department will also be furloughed.
The Angels will donate $1 million to the Angels Employee Assistance Fund to provide grants to those affected, but does anybody want to stand up and applaud that action?
The owners are already going to save money on the draft, which has been reduced from 40 to five rounds, and they’re about to save even more in minor-league expenses when a reported 40 teams are discarded from affiliated ball.
You might argue that the upper-tier millionaire players -- e.g.,Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper and pitcher Zach Wheeler -- should help bail out the troubled owners in these turbulent times, which is what the owners asked them to do with their sliding-payroll scale proposal.
Players in Harper’s pay range would receive only 20% of the $27.5 million he was supposed to make this season. That means he would be paid $5.5 million for the 82 regular-season games MLB hopes to play. A player like Rhys Hoskins, on the other hand, would get 72.5% of his $605,000 salary or roughly $438,000.
Harper, of course, will be just fine because he has 11 more years and more than $290 million left on his contract. But asking a player like Didi Gregorious to take just 30% of the $14 million he is making this season seems grossly unfair. What if he gets hurt and can never play again? The same can be said for catcher J.T. Realmuto, who will make $4 million instead of $10 million this season.
Yes, the owners are going to take a financial bath, but history tells us the value of their teams is going to keep going up.
The Dodgers are worth $1.4 billion more than when they were sold for $2 billion just eight years ago. The Pirates have increased in value by more than $1 billion since Robert Nutting purchased the team in 1996. That story is the same for almost all the owners and not all of them have been particularly good at the job of owning a team.
John Middleton’s father, Herb, paid $18 million to become part of the Phillies’ ownership group in 1994 and the team is now worth $2 billion. That’s a nice investment even if son John owns only 48% of the franchise, with the Buck cousins -- Jim and Pete -- also owning roughly the same amount. The good news for Phillies employees, players, and fans is that their owners care.
My guess is that Middleton and the Bucks would agree to a far less harsh salary reduction of 2020 player salaries right now if it meant the second spring training could start tomorrow. It’s an educated guess based on the fact that the Phillies plan to continue paying their off-field employees and giving them their health benefits through October.