Monday, September 20, 2021
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The 2020 Major League Baseball Season is Under Siege

With time running out on the 2020 MLB season, something has got to give. With sponsorship fallouts, players requested to surrender their "guaranteed" salaries, and Rob Manfred incapable of relating to the players; it appears inevitable the league is leaning towards the first MLB strike since 1994.

Sponsorship Concerns

While the Coca-Cola Company was the official soft drink sponsor of MLB until 1992, intending to market to the younger generation of players, such as Ken Griffey Jr. and Derek Jeter, the Pepsi Cola Company sponsored Major League Baseball for 19 years, from 1997-2016. After a reign of two decades, the Coca-Cola Company announced its partnership with MLB in 2017 to once again become the official soft drink of Major League Baseball.

At the end of the 2019 MLB season, the Coca-Cola Company held an in-depth review with Major League Baseball concerning the success of the relationship, while evaluating if the connection among them was working as effectively as possible.

As of Wednesday, June 10, Coca-Cola made a statement where they announced they would not be renewing it’s deal with Major League Baseball while officially discontinuing the relationship.

MLB vs Coca Cola
MLB and Coca Cola

With Coca-Cola keen to alter its marketing strategy, it will no longer be directly affiliated with Major League Baseball. Even though Coca-Cola ended its partnership with MLB, they will continue to support its ongoing relationships with 16 MLB clubs. Some of the features Coca-Cola has with those 16 clubs include concession programs and exclusive fan sections throughout the stadiums of the teams they sponsor.

With the uncertainty of the 2020 MLB season and how a lost season could affect marketing budgets, Coca-Cola walked away from what would have been an enduring and prosperous partnership. 

Which sponsor will drop Major League Baseball next?

The Proposals

With MLB’s initial proposal to the players, they proposed an 82 game season, which adopted the sliding scale approach, where the top paid players would take a significant pay cut, where the lower-paid players would be less affected. To put this into perspective, the players who earn the league minimum of $563,500 would receive 72.5% of their expected salary, where the players who make $20 million or more in 2020 were expected to take an 80% pay reduction by Major League Baseball.

The MLBPA wouldn’t even entertain this and rejected the offer while countering with a 114 game season with no further pay cuts. Major League Baseball rejected the proposal while immaturely announcing they weren’t making on a counteroffer.

Major League Baseball proposed a 76 game season with their latest counteroffer, with “guaranteeing” players 75% of their prorated salary. However, if the postseason were to be canceled due to a second wave of the coronavirus, the “guaranteed” salary would drop to 50% of their prorated salary.

MLB players are standing firm until they are given their full prorated salary while recognizing there is no baseball without them. In fact, there is a unanimous response from all major league players, where they are all eager to report to training camp, as soon as the league provides them everything they deserve.

Manfred On The Ropes

Since becoming commissioner of Major League baseball on January 25, 2015, Rob Manfred has consistently served the owners of the league, but not the players who risk everything out on the field.

As commissioner, it’s Manfred’s job to keep MLB profitable, while growing the game as the ambassador of the sport. While under contract until 2024, it will be shocking if he serves out his contract.

Rob Manfred on the the ropes
Rob Manfred on the ropes – Arturo Pardavila III from Hoboken, NJ, USA / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)

Manfred was interviewed on Wednesday night prior to the MLB Draft, where he expressed his 100% confidence that the season will get underway but further stating that MLB will not grant players 100% of their prorated salaries. With the players’ unwillingness to take any further pay cuts, Manfred does not respect the players’ desires. 

Additionally, the MLBPA proposed an 89-game season, which Manfred fundamentally shut down. While Manfred has the authority to approve a 48 game season without the player’s permission, the question is how it would affect his future as commissioner of the league if he passed this policy. 

At a news conference in 2017, Manfred would go on to declare, “I’ve tried to be clear that our game is fundamentally sound, that it does not need to be fixed as some people have suggested.” Perhaps lifting him from the commissioner of Major League Baseball is the fix the league needs.

The Impact on the Player’s

While MLB and the MLBPA have conversed back and forth while accomplishing practically nothing, as each day passes, the likelihood that the league’s most prominent stars sit out the prospective 2020 season increases due to the health risks, where they would only earn a portion of their “guaranteed” salary anyway. The compensation and safety of the players are of the utmost concern to both the players and the MLBPA.

Potential Lockout

John McGraw vs Ban Johnson
Personal animosity between Giants manager John McGraw (left) and American League president Ban Johnson (right) stopped the 1904 world series from taking place. McGraw said his Giants were already the world champions because they were the champions of the “only real major league”

Major League Baseball has not experienced a lockout since the 1994 season, where the World Series was not played for the first time since 1904. 

During the 1994 lockout, Manfred served as the outside counsel to the owners. He also became the former commissioner, Bud Selig’s right-hand man. As the lockout continued, Manfred went on to say, “A strike is a failure. A lockout is a failure.” 

If only Manfred knew that with all of the existing tension, he is driving the league into a similar situation, especially with the Collective Bargaining Agreement expiring in 2021.

The Future of Major League Baseball

While we are typically ten weeks into the season by now, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the league has been unable to commence. While other leagues from around the world and the US are getting underway, Major League Baseball is far behind. Whether you place the blame on the owners’ selfishness or Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball, the 2020 season is at a pivotal moment, where something needs to be done to save not only the 2020 season but the welfare of the league.

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