Apparently, between six and eight MLB owners want to cancel the 2020 season. That’s bad.
One thing became clear to anyone observing the conversation surrounding the 2020 MLB season this week: plenty of MLB owners do not want baseball right now.
Though “owners” may be “100% committed” to having a season, in the words of Rob Manfred, the commish kept things nebulous for a reason. How many owners displayed that level of commitment, he did not say.
Manfred knows that the complete absence of a season will damage his reputation beyond belief…until he’s elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 20 years anyway, as is commissioner tradition. For all intents and purposes, he wants some baseball. But rumors are flying that some in ownership’s camp would prefer to cut their losses and not play at all.
Ken Rosenthal says it’s “eight or more,” which would be enough to scuttle a season and serve as a 75% majority. Andy Martino says he’s only heard of six.
At least six MLB owners want to cancel the 2020 season.
Regardless of how many miserly owners we’re dealing with here, it sounds like enough that Manfred must pay attention to and corral them while trying to get both sides back to the table. So…who are they?!
Using our best predictive abilities, I think it’s possible to suss out six right away.
First of all…it’s not the Wilpons. They’re trying desperately to sell the New York Mets, and nothing would devalue that brand like 18 months away from the game. It’s not about losses in the moment for them (or, at least, it shouldn’t be). It’s about inflating the image of their asset, which should be out of their hands soon enough.
The first owner that comes right to mind is Bob Nutting of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Cheap beyond belief even when a normal regular season is occurring, there’s absolutely no way Nutting wants to pay his players even one game’s worth of pro rata.
Beyond Nutting, it’s safe to assume those who want to take on the least financial risk here, preferring a known loss to a potential liability conversation, are all among those who won’t benefit from a postseason. Everybody shares the television deals, but if you’re not contending, you’re not enthusiastic right about now.
As for the other five MLB owners? Ken Kendrick of the Diamondbacks hates MLB’s current revenue sharing breakdown, wishes the league had a salary cap, and has laid off 25% of his employees. Seems like a safe bet with a middling roster. A’s billionaire owner John J. Fisher seems obvious, too. He had to be shamed into paying his minor-leaguers a $400 stipend. Imagine adding an extra zero or two to those totals? He’s out.
Beyond those outspoken individuals, it seems likely the rest of our opponents are lurking in private — despite claiming baseball to be an unprofitable business last week while en route to his Los Angeles mansion, Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt is reportedly not among the nasties.
I’ll finish off this prediction with a trio of MLB owners: new generation Tigers boss Christopher Ilitch, who has had a media openness problem in recent weeks, Mariners owner George Argyros, and Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, who’s blatantly among the most Trumpian of all these fellows, with his team firmly stuck in the middle of the pack.
Can any of these mud sticks be convinced to look at the long game, rather than the possibility of an annual loss for the first time…ever? Here’s to hoping. Rob Manfred’s ticking clock has another week and a half until the “Good Faith” alarm starts blaring.