“The issue over pay without fans is going to get ugly,” said a top baseball official of one team, who insisted on anonymity to speak candidly about league matters. “It’s very real. Owners will claim they’d lose money by playing without fans if players get their full per-game salaries, and it may be true. They’re going to want a big reduction in pay from players.”
When Major League Baseball and the players’ union agreed on new ground rules for the delayed season on March 26 — the original opening day — they included a stipulation that the sides would “discuss in good faith the economic feasibility of playing games in the absence of spectators or at appropriate substitute neutral sites.”
For the owners, that set up another negotiation on pay structure, in an altered economic landscape. The players’ side has a different interpretation of “economic feasibility,” according to the agent Scott Boras.
“The economics they’re talking about is whether they play or not, not what they pay the players to play,” said Boras, adding: “Owners had every opportunity to say, ‘We will also reduce the rate of your salaries if these conditions exist.’ They didn’t, and the reason they wouldn’t is because players would never accept it; they would never agree to the deal.”