MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and MLB Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark are all smiles in the photo above from a 2017 World Baseball Classic news conference, but at least if you believe what I posted in this article here Monday, the two are leading their groups toward a possible baseball lockout in December. From an AP article I quoted Monday:
Baseball’s ninth work stoppage and first in 26 years appears almost certain to start Dec. 2, freezing the free-agent market and threatening the start of spring training in February.
Negotiations have been taking place since last spring, and each side thinks the other has not made proposals that will lead toward an agreement replacing the five-year contract that expires at 11:59 p.m. EST on Dec. 1.
No one really wants that; it could be destructive toward the sport’s future. And yet... we’re now five weeks and a day from that December 1 deadline and we’ve got no word toward constructive steps toward an agreement between owners and players.
On the other hand, both Manfred and Clark were asked about this before Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday night in Houston and both sounded positive about the chances of a deal, per this Sports Business article. Manfred:
“Have you ever hear me say that I’m anything but optimistic about getting an agreement?,” Manfred said. “I’m a believer in the process. We’re meeting on a regular basis, and I’m hopeful we find a way to get an agreement by December 1.
“[Making a deal] is our No. 1 priority. The most important thing is not one paragraph or two paragraphs in the agreement. The most important thing – the win in collective bargaining – is you make an agreement,” he said.
“We are having sessions formally and informally at this point,” Clark said. “It is interesting as to the timing that particular issue to the extent that there is a desire to find common ground. We still have that desire to the extent there are a number of issues that we have worked through and some we’re going to continue to work through. At this point, we have taken advantage of the days that we had post-All-Star Game [in July] and we anticipate taking advantage of the days leading up to and through the expiration.”
As noted above, it would likely be the worst thing possible for the future of the sport if it stops in December, even though no games are being played at that time. A lockout at that point would stop all transactions and make news stories about the game totally about labor strife, rather than trades and free-agent signings.
So you’d think both sides would have a strong incentive to make a deal. The Sports Business article I have linked above, though, says:
Despite the public show of optimism, industry sources familiar with the talks acknowledged there are still are significant issues to resolve if a deal is to be done, including many of the key economic matters that will lie at the heart of a new collective bargaining agreement.
And if a work stoppage were to occur, MLB players would be in a particularly strong position to whether economic damage from the loss of playing salaries. The union has already built up its assets to the second-highest position in its history.
Well, yikes, that doesn’t sound good, at least not for the possibility of a deal soon.
Let’s hope both owners and players understand not only the large amounts of money that could be lost with a lockout — and make no mistake, a stoppage this time would be a lockout, not a strike — but also understand the damage that a lockout would do for the game in the court of public opinion.
Make a deal, guys, and do it soon. As noted at the top of this article:
As always, we await developments.