Tuesday kicks off the most important week for baseball in a very, very long time, and the most obvious measure of its success will arrive in the start of a 2020 season or the lack thereof.
As a secondary ambition? Try to ensure that Noah Syndegaard doesn’t cite anything from it in a future Twitter battle.
Amidst a fundamentally uninteresting dispute over an apartment lease, the Mets’ injured right-hander took on a combative tweep by referring to the current financial disagreement between players and owners.
When @GunterDawg99 wrote, “Yeah [the building’s landlord] is a monster for wanting you to live up to a lease agreement signed by both of you. How would you react if the team suddenly said yeah nah to your contract?” Thor responded: “You mean like MLB did to every Player this contract year due to the Covid pandemic? Which the players negotiated and [expected] to be paid on a [prorated] basis per [game] played because it’s fair for both parties? Like that? Did I scream BUT MY CONTRACT? No. Just shut up Chief.”
Wow. Probably @GunterDawg99, who actually goes by “Chief,” didn’t see that coming.
No blame goes to Syndergaard, who simply repeated what Players Association executive director Tony Clark has asserted publicly. Yet the pitcher’s sentiments underline communication fissures both between the players and owners and within the union itself.
In late March, with the world shut down indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic, the owners and players completed a deal that guaranteed the players $170 million collectively, granted a year’s service time to veterans and assured that players would receive their prorated pay, as Syndergaard referenced, if a season could be resumed.
However, a separate section of the agreement notes the owners and players “will discuss in good faith the economic feasibility of playing games in the absence of spectators or at appropriate substitute neutral sites.”
As The Post’s Joel Sherman reported last week, compelling evidence exists that the Players Association understood the implications of that section. Why else put such language in there if not to reconsider players’ salaries in the revenue-altering event of games without fans, as would be the case at least for the start of this grand experiment?
Conversely, you also can wonder why Major League Baseball didn’t tighten the agreement’s wording to prevent the imbroglio that has come to fruition. The clearer the better, right?
Meanwhile, two industry sources confirmed the players, as exemplified by Syndergaard’s tweet, weren’t suitably forewarned by their leaders that the owners might want to take another bite at the apple. Which turns this into a messier situation.
If the players contend that they shouldn’t take a pay cut since they’re putting themselves in harm’s way, then kudos to them. If they opine they already gave up plenty two months ago, adding the decimation of the amateur draft to the relatively low lump-sum payment, then thumbs-up. To construct their house on some nebulous language from March, though, seems quite shaky. Even if they won an arbitration case, which likely wouldn’t be heard for a long time, the owners could shrug and say, “Well, in that instance, we just wouldn’t have a season.”
As first reported by The Athletic the owners’ financial pitch Tuesday will not be the 50-50 revenue-sharing plan that Clark has waved off as the slippery slope to a salary cap. Both sides appear to understand the high stakes for their sport — this season can’t fall apart over dollars with so many people suffering — and I’ll bet that they find common ground economically.
Any chance they can do this while not leaving open wounds for further negotiations, as just occurred as we all stayed in place? Perhaps that’s too idealistic a hope for any collectively bargained pact. With this Basic Agreement 19 months from completion, though, and with high tension defining this owner-player dynamic, that would constitute a nice secondary victory.
And it would require Syndergaard, the next time he mixes it up with someone on social media, to turn elsewhere for inspiration.