Yesterday was a bit of a roller coaster for baseball fans as the league leaked that they believed they reached an agreement with the MLBPA only to have the player’s union deny that agreement a few hours later.
If you felt like you had a bit of whiplash from the back and forth you were certainly not alone.
As exhausting as these negotiations have been I think it’s important to recognize tactics in these negotiations for what they are. To my eye yesterday’s leaks seemed designed to strengthen the hand of the league in negotiating with the MLBPA. It makes it appear as though the players had agreed to one thing and then backed out unreasonably. I do not believe that occurred accidentally right as players were coalescing around their “When and Where” message:
This piece from Stephanie Apstein in Sports Illustrated was particularly telling to me regarding the intransigence of ownership in these negotiations and their complete unwillingness to be questioned (emphasis mine):
The owners want to win next winter, and so they are playing hardball now. In May they floated a plan under which MLB would share its revenue with the players, a plan there was no chance the union would accept. Since then they have proposed three different deals, all of them amounting to the same thing: We will pay you approximately one-third of your salaries. You decide how many games you want to play for that money. Those proposals did nothing but waste time.
A 17-year-old shortstop in Class A is more accountable to the fans than these billionaires. They erect moats around themselves and screen all calls to the castle. SI reached out to spokespeople from all 30 teams to request an interview with ownership. Seven did not respond. Five said they would pass along the request. The other 18 declined.
The Padres said owner Ron Fowler “has too much on his plate right now.”
The Mets said owner Jeff Wilpon “would prefer to refrain right now from speaking on these subjects until we have further insight on direction.”
The Reds, owned by Bob Castellini, said, “No, but thank you for asking.”
I’m not entirely sure how anything moves when one group feels completely unaccountable to anyone else. In the meantime, don’t be fooled by MLB leaking developments designed to pressure the players to acquiesce right now. The billionaires who own baseball teams clearly don’t care about the game or the season, they only care about their bargaining position in 2021. I’ll believe there is a deal to play in 2020 when the MLBPA announces one, and that in and of itself speaks volumes about the credibility of Major League Baseball and the Commissioner’s Office.
For now, the MLBPA reportedly has a new offer on the table. We’ll see where it goes.