Jason Kipnis Lends Voice to Growing Chorus of Players Openly Criticizing Owners’ Motives

No matter how many snowflakes like Ben Shapiro whine about outspoken players removing their “place of comfort,” the days of just shutting up and playing are long gone. The wokeness (not a pejorative term) of professional athletes, and even those at the prep and college levels, is increasing all the time as fame and wherewithal give them a platform to create change in their sports and the world around them.

Though it’s not a matter of social justice, baseball players have been very vocal lately when it comes to negotiations with the league on the financial parameters of the nascent 2020 season. At the heart of the matter is greed, as the owners are being greedy and the players just want what they already agreed to. So rather than allow the owners’ half-assed attempts to curry favor with the public by crying poor go unchecked, players are clapping back.

Max Scherzer is one of the more popular and respected figures in the sport and he’s taken his domineering mound presence to Twitter to respond to claims like those from Tom Ricketts and Bill DeWitt that MLB “isn’t very profitable.” The perennial Cy Young candidate likened team ownership to Amazon’s model, which soon-to-be trillionaire Jeff Bezos probably isn’t complaining about. Or if he is, he’s smart enough to do it in private.

Contrary to what legions of fans still mistakenly believe, the players aren’t holding out because they feel they deserve x amount of money to take the field. It’s difficult to get everyone to understand baseball’s enclosed economic ecosystem under normal circumstances, let alone during a global pandemic that’s resulted in skyrocketing unemployment, but this isn’t just a matter of men needing millions to play a child’s game.

The real issue is that players don’t trust the owners and feel that the current negotiations are a way for the league to impose a salary cap in order to sustain what had been nearly two decades of record-setting revenues. They’ll offer just enough insight into their aggregate finances to prove their point, but does anyone really believe those books aren’t cooked by Michelin-worthy accountants?

The owners leak their proposals to members of the national media and act as though they’re the ones making the effort when simple math reveals very little deviation in the money they’re willing to pay players. But by putting it out there, they make themselves out to be the good guys whose water fans can carry when it comes to deciding who’s really trying to restart the season.

Players are of course wise to this tactic and they’re not shy to speak out about it, whether it’s on social media or to the media. Kris Bryant has been adamant in the past about service-time manipulation and his agent, Scott Boras, recently made waves when he singled out the Cubs while advising players not to bail owners out from the debt they’ve willingly acquired. Northbrook native Jason Kipnis added his voice to the chorus during a call with ESPN 1000 on Tuesday.

“[I]t feels like they almost make a proposal just so they can be the last ones to say ‘Oh, we’re trying. We made the last proposal and if the game doesn’t start back up it’s on the players ‘cause we offered the last one,’” Kipnis said. “It’s just not the way it works. This shouldn’t be a public matter at all; that was their intention, of trying to get the public on their side to make it look like the players are the ones holding it up.”

Kipnis went on to say that every player wants to get back out there, just not if it means giving up too much ground to owners they believe will just try to take even more. The 33-year-old infielder even admitted that players might refuse to play if it came down to Rob Manfred mandating the season’s structure. That’s obviously a nuclear option the union wants to avoid, but it’s something that can’t be totally dismissed.

“I think every single player knows how good they have it and knows how much they love the game and love playing the game, so we are trying desperately to not let it get to that point,” Kipnis said. “We just can’t seem to find this middle ground right now.”

Manfred promised a “responsive” proposal that would indeed be a step toward the players, though it was presented as somewhat of a passive-aggressive ultimatum for the players to come off of their demands for full prorated pay as well. Given the history of MLB’s labor relations and the commissioner’s own penchant for making decisions that favor immediate revenue gains over the long-term health of the sport, it’s hard to put much faith in what he’s saying.

Jake Arrieta urged young players last year to “be paying attention to what’s going on in your game” in regard to the increasing disparity between revenue and player compensation, and I’d do the same for fans right now. Pay attention to what’s really happening in baseball and don’t be snowed by what owners tell you is happening. This issue is much bigger than just how many games will be played in 2020 for how much salary.

No matter how it all comes down, but especially if the season is played based on a mandate from Manfred, you may want to think twice about putting money toward tickets in 2022.

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