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Max Scherzer: ‘No reason to engage’ in talks over more pay cuts

Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer delivers a pitch.
National pitcher Max Scherzer is on the players’ union executive board.
(John Bazemore / Associated Press)

One day after major league owners asked players to take an additional pay cut this season because of baseball’s coronavirus-induced economic hardship, Max Scherzer threw this brushback pitch at the owners: Put up or shut up.

Scherzer, a member of the executive board of the Major League Baseball Players Assn., posted on social media Wednesday night that the players had “no reason to engage” in negotiations over pay cuts because the owners had provided “no justification” for them.

Scherzer, who helped Washington win the 2019 World Series, also said the league’s strategy could not stand “if all documentation were to become public information.” Scherzer said he spoke for “the rest of the players.”

Agent Scott Boras, who negotiated $1.2 billion in contracts last winter, urged players to stand their ground in an email, a copy of which was obtained by The Times.

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“Remember, games cannot be played without you,” Boras wrote. “Players should not agree to further pay cuts to bail out the owners. Let owners take some of their record revenues and profits from the past several years and pay you the prorated salaries you agreed to accept.”

After major league players said they had no interest in a revenue-sharing plan, owners on Tuesday proposed a sliding scale of pay cuts for players.

Cincinnati Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer criticized Boras in a tweet on Wednesday, saying the agent should “rep your clients however you want to, but keep your damn personal agenda out of union business.”

Former pitcher Kyle Lohse, who played in the major leagues from 2001 to 2016, responded to Bauer on Thursday, tweeting, “Trevor, I’m just gonna chalk this one up to immaturity. While your generation is talking MLB business while playing video games and complaining publicly how the union is doing, us out-of-touch ex-players aren’t happy standing by, watching you wreck what was built.”

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To which Bauer replied: “OK Boomer.”

The union could deliver a formal response to the owners’ proposal that rejects additional salary concessions but offers a way for owners to address cash flow issues, perhaps through salary deferments, providing immediate relief for owners and allowing players to collect full prorated salaries in the future.

Trevor Bauer delivers a pitch for the Cincinnati Reds.
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer criticized Scott Boras’ involvement in the negotiations between players and Major League Baseball.
(Rick Scuteri / Associated Press)

The union also is expected to ask for more regular-season games than the 82 proposed by owners, according to multiple reports. In addition, the union said Tuesday the two sides were “far apart” on health and safety protocols.

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With the clock ticking on a proposed return to spring training in about two weeks, the owners and players have made no progress on compensation in the two weeks since the owners first voted to seek additional salary reductions from players. MLB hoped to begin an 82-game season in early July, with games initially played in empty stadiums.

In March, players agreed to accept a prorated salary for any games played this season. The league says that agreement compels additional negotiations in the event of games without fans, and owners argue they could lose more money by playing fan-free games than by not playing at all.

The players asked for financial documentation to support that position. Scherzer’s response indicates that the players are not satisfied with the documents they have received, and that players are outraged by the proposal that would force the Angels’ Mike Trout and other top-paid players to receive about 22% of their previously guaranteed 2020 salaries, a figure that could fall to 16% if the postseason is not completed.

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The players also are dismayed at what they consider a transparent attempt to split the union by offering a sliding scale of pay cuts, with the lowest-paid players affected the least.

The $36-million salaries of Trout and New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole could fall to $8 million, but the league said the 65% of players making $1 million or less would receive about 46% of their salaries.

Players could propose to play 100 to 110 regular-season games, pushing the postseason into November. Assuming fans would be allowed to attend at some point, that would give teams a chance to recoup some local revenue.


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