Tigers' Boyd says players are 'united and strong,' ready to bring the game to fans
Detroit — As the Tigers’ representative to the players association, Matthew Boyd has been optimistic throughout these past three months that the owners and the union would find a middle ground and that a creditable baseball season would be played this summer.
His optimism has morphed into resignation and, in typical Boyd fashion, determination to make the best of a bad situation.
“We had an agreement and we thought it was pretty clear what it said,” Boyd said in a voice text Sunday night. “Unfortunately, the other side didn’t see it that way. And all of our negotiations have fallen on deaf ears.”
On Saturday night, union executive director Tony Clark summarily rejected the owners' latest proposal and said further negotiations would be futile. That puts the onus on commissioner Rob Manfred to set the length, dates and terms for a season.
He will have a conference call with all 30 owners Monday and the expectation is that a 50-game regular season, without expanded playoffs, will be imposed.
“It’s really unfortunate that it’s taken so long, that the negotiations have dragged on and dragged on,” Boyd said. “It’s to the point where there is no point in dragging it on anymore. We are ready to play baseball.”
Boyd said that has been the impetus of the union since the industry was shut down by the coronavirus pandemic back on March 13 — to get back to the game as quickly and as safely as possible.
“From Day One guys have stayed ready,” he said. “Even amidst all this uncertainty, we’ve stayed ready to deliver the game. This isn’t the players’ game. This isn’t the owners’ game. It’s the fans’ game. This game has been passed on for generations. We know it’s not ours.
“It’s time to get back out there and play baseball. Whatever schedule length Mr. Manfred decides to impose, whether it’s 162 — which we are ready for — or anywhere down to whatever number he wants to say, we will be ready to play.”
The impasse was borne out of a March 26 agreement between owners and the players. The players say they agreed to accept full prorated salaries, regardless of the length of the season. The owners claim that agreement was contingent upon games attended by fans — which is not going to be the case.
The two sides have exchanged one proposal and counter-proposal after another, but neither came off their stance regarding salaries. From the looks of things, that particular dispute will ultimately be decided by arbitrators.
In a 50-game season, players would receive roughly 31 percent of their salaries.
To Boyd, though, that is a fight for another day. It’s time to play ball.
“We as a Tigers team, we’re ready to play, we are ready to represent this state and this city and to wear the Olde English D proud,” he said. “We are excited about our team. We’ve got a bunch of guys who are hungry; we were hungry when they shut it down. That’s what makes it so tough.
“But we’re ready right now. When he tells us to show up, we’re going to be ready. I can’t wait to do it.”
This three-month skirmish between the players and owners was a prelude — in fact, it may have established some battle lines — for the big fight coming after the 2021 season when the current collective bargaining agreement expires.
Boyd was asked if players are coming back embittered by what transpired these past three months.
“I don’t think bitter is the right word,” he said. “I think the players are going to come back united, stronger than ever and with more understanding of how things work.”