May 25, 2022

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Sports Really Satisfies

Cubs’ Jason Heyward says MLB owners always intended to miss games and view April as ‘debt’

Major League Baseball’s owner-imposed lockout, now entering its third month, compromised the regular season on Tuesday evening when commissioner Rob Manfred canceled the first two series of the year. Manfred’s announcement came after the owners and the MLB Players Association failed to reach a new Collective Bargaining Agreement ahead of the league’s 5 p.m. deadline. 

Since then, countless big-league players have taken to social media to express their disappointment, their frustration, and their opinion about the lockout and the negotiating process. Chicago Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward, for his part, stated a belief that Manfred and the owners planned to miss regular season games all along.

Heyward posted his thoughts to his Instagram account on Wednesday. His full post, which can be viewed below, outlined why he thought the owners had operated with the “intent to delay the season.” He compared these talks to the ones that occurred in 2020, saying that in both cases the league had in mind an “ideal amount of games.” (The league unilaterally imposed 60 games after negotiations with the players broke down, in part because the players wanted to play a longer schedule.) 

The owners, in Heyward’s estimation, “know the amount of games we need to play in order to profit” and “view the first month of the season as debt.” 

Heyward isn’t the only player to express these kinds of thoughts, either. Just days before Heyward’s message, New York Yankees right-hander Jameson Taillon shared a similar sentiment. “Owners actions have made it clear all along that they have a set # of games where they still make profits/get TV money,” he tweeted.

While it’s impossible to prove either Heyward or Taillon correct, there is a good amount of evidence suggesting there’s something to their theories.

The league wanted to delay and shorten the 2021 season, though that was framed as a response to the pandemic. It’s clear that COVID-19 wasn’t on anyone’s mind on Monday, when the owners “indicated a willingness to miss a month of games” as part of negotiations, per Evan Drellich of The Athletic.

Why would the owners be so eager to sacrifice April?

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal noted earlier this week that April games tend to be  poorly attended, and that teams may not have to offer rebates on their local television contracts until about 25 games are missed — 25 games being, of course, a full month’s worth. Because teams won’t have to pay players for missed games, it reasons that the owners may be coming out ahead financially in that trade-off.

What’s more is that, if the owners time things right, they can agree to a CBA in time for a season long enough that their television deals will pay in whole. Factor in that the eventual CBA could include an expanded postseason (worth an additional $85 million in revenue) and perhaps on-uniform advertisements (another $150 million), and the owners are sitting prettier than most outsiders might realize. 

To think, that’s without the possibility of them settling the CBA and then agreeing to new broadcasting and streaming deals that could create an even larger windfall, as sources speculated they might to The Score’s Travis Sawchik.

In other words, what Heyward and Taillon have suggested may have some legs to it. The owners know exactly how to turn a profit, and it doesn’t have to include April.