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Today, baseball will lose a little bit of its soul

The Commissioner is expected to announce a delay in the start of Spring Training.

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

It has been 27 years since a Major League Baseball game has been cancelled due to a labor dispute. In 1995, MLB played a 144-game schedule instead of the 162 that had been the em norm for more than three decades, and has been since, apart from the pandemic-abbreviated 2020 season.

Sometime later today, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is expected to announce that the beginning of 2022 Spring Training will be delayed, following the conclusion of owners’ meetings in Orlando, Florida. By how much, we do not yet know, but any delay of longer than a couple of weeks puts the start of the regular season in jeopardy.

Now, let’s be clear. Spring Training games don’t count. They’re only partly for “training” these days, as in many of them MLB players don’t play much of the game and the contests are finished by guys you might never hear from again. Further, MLB players don’t get paid during Spring Training; their contracts begin on Opening Day.

Let’s be absolutely clear about this: What’s going to happen today is a self-inflicted wound, set in motion by Commissioner Rob Manfred after the collective-bargaining agreement between owners and players expired December 1. This article by Deesha Thosar in the New York Daily News summarizes what happened, and quotes Manfred:

“This defensive lockout was necessary because the Players Association’s vision for Major League Baseball would threaten the ability of most teams to be competitive,” Manfred said on Dec. 2. “It’s simply not a viable option. From the beginning, the MLBPA has been unwilling to move from their starting position, compromise, or collaborate on solutions.”

This, of course, is utter nonsense. It’s the owners who didn’t move — for 43 days after the lockout began they made no offers for “compromise” or collaboration, and even after a small number of bargaining sessions took place, no movement occurred.

Again, none of this had to happen. The parties could have agreed to play under the previous CBA — and the players likely would have agreed to do that even though that wasn’t really in their favor — while talking about a new agreement.

But here we are. Thosar sums things up very well in her article:

Fans should be offended that MLB thinks paying customers will still buy this baloney. The owners’ unyielding inaction and unwillingness to significantly move on economic issues is plain to see.

Until MLB parts ways with its usual strategies — gaslighting fans, dragging the players down, crying wolf on loss of revenue despite lucrative TV deals and expanded playoffs — there is little “good faith” involved in these labor talks.

There is where we stand, in two paragraphs, None of it is good. I expect Manfred to announce a significant delay in getting baseball started this year, and once that Pandora’s Box is opened it will be very difficult to close, and I anticipate it could mean regular-season games will be lost.

On the other hand, the door between owners and players appears to be slightly open:

Well, that’s something, at least. And then there’s this:

I don’t have great hope that this “new proposal” will move the needle much, and please keep in mind that Jon Heyman is generally an ownership mouthpiece. But as always, we await developments.

When Manfred makes his announcement later today, I’ll post about it.