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Gallant: With public fight over money, baseball is missing a big opportunity

T-Mobile Park in Seattle remains empty during baseball's postponement. (AP)

Have you ever seen a couple arguing in public?

Drayer: MLB’s first financial proposal to players met with collective ‘oof’

If you know neither person, it’s quality people watching. It’s free entertainment, complete with loud noises, dramatic hand movements, and facial contortions that will make you feel better about yourself.

But when you know both parties? It’s awkward. Because two people that you know are shamelessly embarrassing themselves in front of you.

“Cool story, Pawl – NOT. GET TO THE POINT.”

Baseball’s Player’s Association and owners are that couple right now. And while they scratch and claw at one another, they’re completely oblivious to the batting practice-caliber meatball slowly drifting towards them: an opportunity for Major League Baseball to recapture America’s interest. It’s a pitch that they can’t afford to take.

“Sick baseball references, Baseball Pawl.”

Being the first sport to swing towards a return…

“OK, we get it, stop.”

…is easier said than done. Baseball’s owners have a real dilemma on their hands. How long can they keep paying players when their revenue streams are disappearing?

Baseball’s players are in quite the pickle, too (sorry, I can’t stop). They’re suddenly not earning money, and every day off the diamond means a smaller paycheck. But is it fair to expect them to rip up an agreement they’d made with the owners to make things easier for their bosses? Especially with that contract expiring next year?

Like a healthy relationship, baseball getting back on the field will require compromise – and some sacrifice – between the owners and players. Sure, there’ll be some heated arguments along the way. But if the two parties keep the in-fighting indoors, no one can embarrass themselves or the other party.

Unfortunately, the MLB’s players and owners have basically gone the “passive aggressive shots at one another on Facebook before a breakup” route. And during a time where unemployment is surging, this “millionaires vs. billionaires” back and forth has gone down in a remarkably tone-deaf manner.

Baseball’s owners started it by publicly floating a plan that would call for a 50-50 revenue split with players. They probably thought that public opinion would pressure the MLBPA into taking the deal. After all, the NBA has a 50-50 revenue split while NFL players only get 48% of the pie. Good luck dealing with the optics of saying no to that. It was crafty.

With baseball’s collective bargaining agreement expiring in 2021, they’d be on the hook for less money and have a chance at instituting a salary cap in baseball. But this proposal angered players, who believed they’d been Lando’d. They were under the impression that they’d receive a prorated salary for their services during a COVID-19 shortened season. That rage led to insensitive spewing from Rays pitcher Blake Snell, who said, “I’m risking my life… If I’m gonna play, I should be getting the money I signed to be getting paid. I should not be getting half of what I’m getting paid because the season’s cut in half.”

In principle, I agree with Snell, who said this off the cuff while playing a video game. But in a time where unemployment is skyrocketing, he sounded extremely ignorant.

The owners’ response? Setting the house that they share with the players on fire. They proposed a salary structure that would see baseball’s highest paid players earn a fraction of their salaries. Under the plan, Mike Trout – due nearly $38 million this coming season – would make just $5.7 million. In a sport that needs star power, owners thought it’d be a good negotiating ploy for the sport’s best players to voluntarily “take one on the chin” the year before the CBA expires.

Isn’t that the kind of tactic that will drive players away from the negotiating table entirely?

I think so. And if that happens, what a blown opportunity it’ll be for baseball. For the first time in years, the sport has a chance to outshine both football and basketball – simultaneously! But with the way things are going, there’s a chance baseball’s owners and players will anger the entire country.

Again. The same way that they did after the 1994 lockout.

Sadly, that shouldn’t be so surprising. History tends to repeat itself, so I’m not shocked that this dramatic, petty couple is at each other’s throats in public.


Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Paul Gallant on Twitter.

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