Just as the talks between Major League Baseball players and owners are reaching a crescendo of bickering and disagreement, along came a New York Post report Saturday afternoon that could not have been more poorly timed — for the owners.
The Post reported that MLB has wrapped up a deal worth a billion dollars with Turner Sports to extend a playoff package that includes one of the league championship series.
After a week in which one owner, Bill DeWitt Jr. of the Cardinals, told a St. Louis radio station that “the [baseball] industry isn’t very profitable,” the reported new deal also comes not long before prolonged negotiations between the owners and players are expected to wrap up.
All along, the owners have said they cannot afford to bear the entire burden of the revenue losses that would ensue by staging games in front of no fans and that’s why they asked the players to accept a discount from the prorated salary agreement that already had been negotiated.
Turner Sports’s current deal with the owners, set to expire after next season, is believed to be worth $350 million a year.
The length of the new contract is not known, the Post reported, which added that ESPN/ABC is still interested in becoming a carrier of postseason games. MLB wants to expand its playoffs from 10 to as many as 16 teams as soon as this season, but expansion is subject to the current negotiations with the players, and their approval is not a given.
The postseason is the most lucrative portion of the baseball season for teams in terms of national TV revenues.
Fox is in the midst of a long-term contract with MLB that includes an LCS and the World Series.
Reaction from players was swift and sarcastic.
From Trevor Bauer of the Reds: “Oh good so ... we can play now, right? Seems there is plenty to go around here. Seems there is plenty of money being made by the league and the teams. Given tha(t) players are the product, I’m sure some of this can be distributed to them, right? Yay for baseball.”
From Andrew McCutchen of the Phillies: “bUT bAsEbAlL iS dYiNg!” with a couple of befuddled looking emojis.
From San Francisco Giant shortstop Brandon Crawford: “ThE iNdUsTrY jUsT iSnT tHaT pRoFiTaBlE.”
Michael Silverman can be reached at email@example.com.