Many fans of MLB have been wondering what all the fuss is about with the most recent baseball work stoppage. The answer is: money matters.
On July 14, 2015, the owners approved a new collective bargaining agreement. This agreement gave the players a signing bonus salary cap of $12 million for a full season, a raise from $9 million. It also created the Basic Agreement starting in 2016. During that same negotiation, players (and their union) voted to get approval for even harsher rules regarding performance-enhancing drugs. Now we are looking at the results.
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Some factors drove the new CBA, but one of the most important is money. In 2016, the average player salary was $2.6 million. With the new collective bargaining agreement, that average salary increased to $3.1 million. That’s a 27% increase in just one year.
But an increase in salaries, even a healthy one, won’t mean a large amount of revenue when divided into just those salaries. The big change was giving the players a revenue share of about 41% of MLB revenues. The current collective bargaining agreement ran from 2013-2017, and during that time the players, their union, and the owners split the league-wide revenues 50/50.
This jump in player revenue distributions (which the owners funded), came due to an increased profit from local broadcasting and MLB Network that has come online in recent years. Money matters, and there’s some hard feelings about players from the past who a lot of players feel has influenced the new revenue shares.
And that’s just the beginning.
While all this is happening, there’s a strike going on. There are actually two strikes going on right now.
First, a player group representing MLB employees nationwide is currently going on a one-day sick out. This is the “bargaining unit” of the National Hockey League Players Association, the same union that controls MLB players.
The other strike that’s going on is between the MLB Players Association and the major leagues. This also involves the smaller, lower-payroll teams.
This dispute involves all 30 MLB clubs, meaning that the same players players and management groups that are fighting over how to distribute money do not control the same amount of money. This is definitely hard to keep track of since some clubs can be massive revenue generators and some are around only in name, in a financial sense.
Therefore, what does it all mean for fan growth? Well, the annual negotiations always cause different clubs to be on different side than others. This could hold MLB fans back a little.
What are fans seeing instead?
Some fans, like, don’t see many big changes when watching the games. They don’t really notice the new skills players have that they’ve never had before, and they barely know if the strike out is more of a pop fly to the left side of the infield or just a sad, slumping flop to the right side of the field.
Some fans, like, appreciate just the athleticism of what the players have, and do not find the social media reports and pictures of hot men eating hot dogs wrong.
But then some fans, like, appreciate the way the fans are treated when watching the game. When they’re in the stands, the team does not tip them, giving them a brand new pair of cleats, autographed baseballs, and food vouchers (and occasional free beer). They are treated to company cars and money that they didn’t even ask for to go see the team. And there’s free alcohol for the price of a few beers.
There is always some hard feelings and disappointing news when there’s a work stoppage in baseball. At the end of the day, it’s only about money. Maybe it’s worth tuning in for one final playoff-season home game this summer, but if you’re a big baseball fan, you probably don’t. The main reason: money.