Is 2020 the Year of the Replacement Ballplayers?

It seems with each day, the disparity between the MLBPA and MLB widens. According to Jon Heyman, the two sides thought that they settled the issue when they agreed to a prorated salary… Whatever agreement they had on March 26 was lost in translation. The players perceived this agreement to mean that the salary per game stays the same, while the owners believed that this was predicated on fans attending the games. The two sides have taken to social media to air their grievances, and the conflict is souring by the day. Before a return to play, both sides need to mediate and hash out a plan.

The last time the labor union and league could not come together on a CBA was in 1994. Major league players went on strike on August 11th, and the season was ultimately canceled. For the first time since 1904, there was no World Series.

The strike lasted until hours before Opening Day in 1995, and baseball’s owners intended on using replacement players in the league. On March 30, 1995, future Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor presided over a hearing between the player’s association and the owners that lasted for two hours. The players’ association protested the owners’ decision to unilaterally eliminate free-agent negotiations and salary arbitrations while negotiating a new CBA. Sotomayor, who was then the youngest judge in the Southern District of New York, took merely 15 minutes after hearing arguments to rule in favor of the players. She issued an injunction against the owners and the players agreed to return to work, effectively ending the strike.

Prior to this decision though, the owners had opened up training camps in February to retired players, minor-leaguers, and replacement players. Some of these replacements had no professional experience and were paid mere pennies. They went incognito to hide their intentions from the players’ union, some with aliases that were vastly different from their actual names. These replacement players were subjected to heated rhetoric from the unionized players, and were barred from membership to the MLBPA. No matter their reasons for crossing the line, they were opportunistic individuals in search of a chance to play.

When the strike ended, many replacement players saw their contracts terminated. Some of the lucky ones were reassigned to the minors, but a select few were kept on their major league teams. There are a few recognizable faces who got their start from these unfortunate circumstances.

Current analyst for the MLB network and host of the show, Intentional Talk, Kevin Millar, spent ten years in the majors. He was the heart and soul of the 2004 Red Sox run, coining the rally cry “Cowboy Up!” He posted a career slash line of .274/.358/.452.

Brian Daubach saw his eight-year career begin from the strike. He spent the majority of his career with Boston, with a career batting line of .259/.341/479.

Lou Merloni, the current co-host of the Ordwar, Merloni & Fauria on WEEI and baseball analyst with NBC Sports Boston, also obtained a shot at the big leagues after the strike. He played professionally for nine years, with some experience playing internationally in Japan. His career slash line is .271/.327/.388.

Even if the negotiations between the MLBPA and the MLB turn nuclear, the general consensus among fans is that we still want to see baseball. A strike would have far-reaching ramifications for the league and its subsidiaries, but fans are starved for games.

It is in no one’s interest to have a strike, but even the worst possible scenario happens, there are some positives to be taken out of it. There are athletes out there that are waiting for their shot at the big leagues, and some could have the ability to endure.

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