Four MLB Teams Called Out for Potential Misuse of Revenue-Sharing Funds
The Miami Marlins, Oakland Athletics, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Tampa Bay Rays are under scrutiny as the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) filed a grievance against them on February 23, 2018. The grievance called into question whether their use of revenue-sharing funds has been consistent with the teams’ collective bargaining agreement.
The collective bargaining agreement names its “principle objective” as “promot[ing] the growth of the Game and the industry on an individual Club and on an aggregate basis.” In doing so, the agreement requires that all MLB teams contribute to a “putative pool a percentage of a blended average of [revenue] from the prior three Revenue Sharing Years,” and then the funds are distributed equally among them. The use of funds is limited to efforts intended to drive growth forward, and as such, teams are not permitted to draw from that pool to make debt payments, payments to individuals other than on-field or player development personnel, or “payments to entities that do not have a direct role in improving on-field performance,” to name a few.
While the grievance has not been made public, MLB union spokesman Chris Dahl did confirm its filing. The first step is for the labor relations department within the MLB commissioner’s office to review the grievance. If the teams are found to have violated the agreement, the commissioner is empowered to impose sanctions. Fortunately, the teams are able to appeal to an independent arbitrator if they are held to be in violation.
Pirates president Frank Coonelly denied the allegations, calling them “patently baseless” and offering that the team is in fact trying to work with a disproportionately low level of available funding relative to its expenditures. He publicly responded to the stir by saying that the team’s “revenue-sharing receipts have decreased for seven consecutive seasons while our major league payroll has more than doubled over this same period.” He added that the Pirates’ “revenue-sharing receipts are now just a fraction of what we spend on major league payroll,” and noted that the team has “made significant investments in scouting, signing amateur players, our player development system and our baseball facilities.” Other teams have not been as eager to respond.