Mark Attanasio, owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, as well as President of Baseball Operations David Stearns and field manager Craig Counsell participated in a Zoom conference call earlier today with the Greater Milwaukee Committee membership and expressed optimism regarding the possible resumption of the 2020 Major League Baseball season. Attanasio told those tuning in that “We’re on the precipice of deciding whether or not we’re going to play baseball in 2020 and I think we’re going to.” But he would later add that a deal needs to “come together very quickly, or we’ll run out of time.”
According to various reporters, Attanasio said that he’s already talked to Wisconsin governor Tony Evers as well as Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett about the possibility of having games at Miller Park. “Baseball has played a healing role in this country forever,” he said while talking about how the game can help to repair some of the damage that has been done. The owner believes that it is important to stage games safely by working with local leaders and health professionals, and that fans, players, and all the workers necessary to put games on can do so in a safe environment. He noted that it’s a collaborative effort with input from teams and the Players’ Association along with a 68-page medical guide.
Attanasio went on to talk about money, which seems to be the main factor that is dividing ownership and the union in talks about resuming play. The owner suggested that 40% of league revenues come from game-related income, but that it is a larger percentage than that in Milwaukee. Attanasio stated that if half a season is played without fans, league-wide revenues that would normally be $10 billion would become less than $3 billion.
Attanasio said that if and when baseball resumes, he would prefer for “Spring Training 2.0” to take place at Miller Park. He believes that steps can be taken to make the home stadium in the Menomonee Valley as safe as the Spring Training site in Maryvale. He also added that figuring out how to ensure 86 year old broadcaster Bob Uecker can come to work safely is on the priority list.
When it was David Stearns’ turn, he spoke regarding the “robust” testing program that has been proposed and said that players in the clubhouse would have to follow the same kinds of social distancing guidelines that are in effect for other businesses. Milwaukee’s main decision-maker expressed confidence in his staff and their preparation for the upcoming amateur draft, particularly in regards to their video scouting efforts. He also suggested that he’s had some fun picturing what an expanded roster could look like for the Brewers this season, given the depth that the organization possesses.
During Craig Counsell’s time on the chat, he talked about how much players would miss having fans in the stands. He also discussed the fact that keeping players healthy would be challenging on a number of fronts, not only considering the coronavirus, but also the injury issues that could pop up after a shortened Spring Training and irregular, half-season schedule.
While the main figureheads in Milwaukee may be optimistic regarding the possible upcoming season, it seems that there is less positivity following the report from Bob Nightengale of the economic proposal made earlier this afternoon by the owners. While the league has backed off their earlier position of a revenue split, they have reportedly began negotiations with a sliding-scale proposal that would have the game’s highest earning players taking the most significant pay cuts, with salary slashes that get incrementally smaller further down the pay scale. “Players would receive pay cuts of more than 50%, and perhaps as much as 75% for the game’s top-paid players,” Nightengale writes.
Interesting strategy of making the best most marketable players potentially look like the bad guys— Brett Anderson (@_BAnderson30_) May 26, 2020
This season is not looking promising. Keeping the mind and body ready regardless. Time to dive into some life-after-baseball projects. Hope everyone is staying safe and healthy. Brighter times remain ahead!— Marcus Stroman (@STR0) May 26, 2020
Some have suggested that this proposal — which a few prominent writers make sure to mention was simply an “initial offer” to begin negotiations — could be viewed as a ploy to split the union based on service time and salary lines. It was reported that the MLBPA was “very disappointed” and “discouraged” with the proposal. Additional reporting from Bill Shaikin revealed that not only are the owners and players far apart on monetary issues, but significant gaps remain on health and safety protocols, as well. Jon Heyman adds some urgency by stating that June 1st is considered a “soft” deadline for negotiations for the 2020 season, with the goal of starting Spring Training by June 10th in advance of a regular season that begins in July.
MLB statement: “We made a proposal to the union that is completely consistent with the economic realities facing our sport. We look forward to a responsive proposal from the MLBPA.”— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) May 26, 2020
In one last bit of news, it was reported earlier this evening that the Brewers have begun making furloughs to business operations staff. The baseball operations side have been protected from that danger, but according to Rick Schlesinger, “Like many other businesses, we are making very difficult decisions related to our operations in the face of COVID-19. This includes placing some of our business operations front office staff on furloughs and reducing compensation for others.” Top executives on the business side for the Brewers will be taking cuts of up to 25%, but there will no be lay-offs for other staff — only furloughs. Schlesinger added, “We recognize the sacrifices that members of our organization are making, and appreciate their patience and understanding given the circumstances.”