Admittedly, Boras has largely echoed union leader Tony Clark in terms of takeout. The two maintain the line that they will not accept a 2020 earnings cut, as the owners are prepared to offer. And they each argue that an MLB-MLBPA agreement in late March determined that players should receive prorated compensation for all games played, whether or not fans are present.
So why put forward his latest comments?
As I explained recently when covering the ongoing dispute between the league and the unions over this late March agreement, the problem comes down to a strange ambiguity that appears in the contract. While a section on “player compensation” provides for a simple salary reduction based on the number of games played, the parties also agreed in another clause to “discuss in good faith the economic feasibility of playing games in the absence of spectators ”.
In short, there is a legal question of contract interpretation which bears heavily on the strategic / practical question of the difficulty with which each party wants to push its position in negotiations and public positions. Boras’ comments – still noteworthy given his unrivaled customer base – answer these two questions.
Here is how the representative of the polarizing player said things (it is me who underlines):
” The the players i represent are unified in that they reached an agreement and they sacrificed between 30 and 40% of their salary so that the games could continue amicably. the owners represented during this negotiation that they could run without fans in the stadium. On this basis, we have reached an agreement and there will be no renegotiation of this agreement. ”
Let’s first look at the issue of contract interpretation. It remains a mystery as to why the MLB-MLBPA deal did not clearly talk about how to run a fanless season (or to specifically reserve this issue in its entirety). Given the ambiguity, an arbitration panel or tribunal examining this issue could consider not only the agreement itself, but (among other things) the statements made by the parties during the negotiations – particularly in the to the extent that they were reasonably invoked by other negotiations. side.
The details remain elusive here, but this seems to be the first public allegation that the league has done or said something during the negotiations for this agreement that should have an impact on the way it is interpreted. Boras says the owners “represented” something about spectatorless exploitation, which apparently implies that the union has something to back up its wage position beyond the mere terms of the agreement itself . It is impossible to assess, given what we know and what we do not know publicly, but it is theoretically possible that a statement made during negotiations could have a substantial impact on the outcome of a battle legal – if we see one.
If the union really feels it has a compelling legal record, then it could be encouraged to stay the course. Even if the end-March agreement does not establish an absolute prorated right to wages, evidence of the kind that Boras suggests (assuming players can produce it) may well support a more favorable reading of the agreement. For example, it is conceivable that a court could read the notion of a “good faith” discussion of “economic feasibility” as requiring the league to provide certain financial information to players – particularly since the proposal of the league is to link wages to income – and perhaps also to make a sort of demonstration of the impossibility of opening talks on lower wages.
Will the players really hold the line on this point and demand that they receive a prorated salary for all the organized matches, whether or not the fans are on the seats? Boras also talks about it. When he suggests unity among his clients, this means that he pretends to speak for most of the most visible and best paid players in the game. And he indicates that they will speak with one voice while refusing (as he presents) to renegotiate the agreement on the issue of compensation.
Before you even ask yourself on which side do you think it is morally justified, if any, there is still a lot we don’t know about what the stakeholders really aim to accomplish with jockeying current. Is the league pressuring the union to obtain additional concessions? Maybe Boras is in charge of pit bulls while Clark holds the line and the players put a more sympathetic face on the working position. Could it really be that the parties are fighting for a brutal and very public battle, all in the context of a pandemic and long-term grievances? It is not yet clear. But Boras’ comments tell us that, at a minimum, the player side (or at least its segment) wants the MLB to think it will take an aggressive stance on pay regardless of what happens.