May 13, 2020 4 min read

A fight, then baseball. (Maybe.)

Good morning, frents ….

Anyone remember when the lockdown started and mid-May was briefly floated as a possible opening day? I miss that kind of optimism, however naive it was.

Just work it out and tell us when the games start

UFC returned to the cage last weekend, but it might not have anything on this flash labor war that’s on the verge of breaking out in baseball.

If you haven’t been keeping up with this week’s issues, ESPN’s Jeff Passan wrote a lengthy and detailed piece on the issues facing owners and the union before baseball can begin. Jeff thinks the week — and maybe the 10 days after that — has the potential to get really ugly, but that we shouldn’t get pessimistic just yet.

A few bulletpoints of what’s happened so far and the crux of the current battle:

  • Major League Baseball brought its 2020 plan (82-game schedule, expanded playoffs, etc.) to the owners on Monday. It was rubber-stamped.
  • The plan was presented to the player’s union on Tuesday and negotiations began over a virtual meeting. An agreement was not immediately reached.
  • Back in March, the two sides came to an agreement that players would be paid on a prorated basis and that the amount paid would be capped at $170 million if no season were played.
  • Players believe the proration agreement still applies to this 82-game schedule, which would entitle them to just over 50 percent of what they’ve signed for 2020.
  • Under the new plan, the owners are proposing a straight 50/50 split of whatever revenue is made in 2020 because they believe the March deal has language that would allow them to reconfigure player salaries if there are no fans in the stands.
  • The players are strictly against a revenue split, even if it’s just for one year, because it suggests a salary cap — and salary caps are for football, hockey and basketball players who have much weaker unions.
  • A bunch of lawyers are about to make a bunch of money.

All in all, it’s a beyond complicated situation.

You’ve got two sides who were already on each other’s bad sides trying to navigate a situation no one on the planet has ever tried to navigate and they have about 2 1/2 weeks to do it, all while the dynamics of the pandemic itself change by the day.

Complicating matters is the fact that the big money they usually fight over is drying up. Half a season’s games means half the television revenue. No fans in the stands means no one heading to the beer stand three times to pay $12 for a beer.

To the outsider, it looks like a clear battle between being principled and being pragmatic. You might want to play under your normal rules; only problem is that the normal rules went out the window more than two months ago.

Still, it looks like both sides want to stand their ground for at least a few days in hopes the other side will be publicly pressured into turning practical.

Aren’t staring contests fun?

So before we even think about how baseball is actually going to pull off a season, we first have to watch the owners and players skirmish.

And I have to admit: I’m not a huge fan of watching this play out over Twitter. There’s an entire camp of fans that sides with the owners and wants to paint the players as greedy. It’s a group that apparently includes former Yankee Mark Teixeira and — checks notes — Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker. Yes, the guv waded into the fray on Tuesday with an opinion on the situation before the players could even see the full terms of baseball’s plan.

Good times.

At the same time, social media is just as full of equally annoying people white-knighting for players who are already being represented by a powerful union they’ve spent the past half-century building. Trust me folks, the players are not going to eke out a win on the power of your tweets. There are worthier causes to adopt.

Me? I just want to watch baseball sometime in 2020 — if it can safely be pulled off.

Which is why I’m not going to get sappy over the sport saving America’s soul from coronavirus or loudly plant my flag in one of two wealthy camps I’ll never be a part of.

As fans, all we have is our time, attention and money, all of which can be spent elsewhere if the owners and players can’t come to an agreement.

The sooner they figure that out, the better we’ll all be.

Know a baseball fan who could use this piece? Forward it to them!

Have a link for Midway Minute? Email me!

The Old Dolls are real-life superheroes. (Tribune)

Welcome to Maddie Lee, the newest Cubs beat writer. (NBC Sports Chicago)

Could the Cubs replace the Yankees as the White Sox’s opponent in the Field of Dreams game in August? Vinnie Duber thinks they should. (NBC Sports Chicago)

Sky owner Michael Alter remains hopeful there can be a 2020 WNBA season, but at least one player is doubtful, Madeline Kenney writes. (Sun-Times)

I enjoyed this catchup with Armando Galarraga on the 10th anniversary of his near-perfect game. Maybe the White Sox can give him Philip Humber’s? (The Athletic)

Meghan Montemurro on Dick Allen’s Hall of Fame case. (The Athletic)

• How much longer before one of the networks has to air this?

I’m a sucker for flyovers, especially over stadiums. Don’t @ me. (Blue Angels)

Will coronavirus be Chicago’s back-to-the-burbs moment? (Chicago Mag)

• Let’s sign two! This is just awesome …

That’s it for today. Have a most excellent Wednesday and thank you for being a #frentofthenewsletter.


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Kevin Kaduk
Kevin Kaduk
Kevin is the founder of Midway Minute.

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