Arturo Pardavila III/Wikimedia Commons
The superstar pitcher says "there's no reason to engage with MLB in any further compensation reductions."
Arturo Pardavila III/Wikimedia Commons
If he's going to step on the mound this year, Washington Nationals superstar pitcher Max Scherzer says he needs assurances that Major League Baseball won't ask its players to take another pay cut.
In the latest twist of the 2020 season, which is on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic, Scherzer late Wednesday slammed the economic proposal for resuming games that the MLB has delivered to the official players association but not publicly released. The proposal reportedly calls for a sliding scale of pay cuts, where the highest-paid players would take an up to 80% pay cut, as well as an already agreed-on prorated salary based on how many games actually occur.
"After discussing the latest developments with the rest of the players there's no reason to engage with MLB in any further compensation reductions," Scherzer said in a statement posted on his Twitter page. (Scherzer is on the players association's executive subcommittee, along with seven others.) "We have previously negotiated a pay cut in the version of prorated salaries, and there's no justification to accept a 2nd pay cut based upon the current information the union has received."
While the players association has yet to officially respond to the proposal, a number of players have expressed outrage over it on social media. "I'm glad to hear other players voicing the same viewpoint and believe MLB's economic strategy would completely change if all documentation were to become public information," Scherzer added in his statement.
The Nationals pitcher, a 2019 World Series champion, was slated to rake in more than $28 million in base salary this year, making him one of the league's highest-paid players and therefore eligible for the up to 80% pay cut. The agency that represents Scherzer, the Boras Corp., referred to his statement when asked for comment on the MLB's proposal.
In a statement responding to the players' backlash, the MLB said its proposal is "consistent with the economic realities facing our sport." The 2020 season was scheduled to begin March 26, but it has been postponed indefinitely due to the coronavirus, which has led to sports cancellations and closed stadiums across the country.
As a team, the Nationals are valued at $1.9 billion, according to an April 2020 estimate by Forbes. Meanwhile, the Lerner family, which owns the team, has a net worth of $4.4 billion.
Before receiving the MLB's proposal, some players, including Nationals relief pitcher Sean Doolittle, raised concerns that holding games during the pandemic would endanger their health and that of the people around them. ("Bear with me, but it feels like we've zoomed past the most important aspect of any MLB restart plan: health protections for players, families, staff, stadium workers and the workforce it would require to resume a season," Doolittle tweeted May 11.) Although the MLB sought to address such concerns in a 67-page manual ESPN reported on earlier this month, public health experts say players' safety from COVID-19 can't be fully guaranteed.
For his part, Scherzer recently told ESPN that he's most concerned for the safety of coaches and athletic trainers. "They're constantly working with every single player on the team, and understanding how infectious this disease is, that's where you worry that you could be putting somebody in harm's way," he said.
The MLB has approved a plan under which regular-season games would resume at teams' home parks during the weekend of July 4th. But this plan requires approvals from both players and local governments. (Earlier in May, the District and the MLB were in talks about approving it.) D.C. will begin a phased reopening Friday, after two months during which residents were ordered to stay home to the greatest extent possible.
The MLB and the players association are likely to negotiate over the economic proposal. It's expected that the latter will present a counteroffer by the end of the week, with a proposal that calls for 100 regular-season games (instead of 82) and no additional cuts beyond the prorated salaries.
At the same time, there's a reported soft deadline of June 1 for the parties to agree to all components of the deal, so that spring training could start up again by mid-June. Nationals fans will have to wait to see whether the team is able to stage another World Series run this year.