MLB owners met this week in Orlando, Florida. It was expected that Commissioner Rob Manfred would announce a delay in the start of Spring Training.
We didn’t get that announcement. Instead, all we got was what we already knew from tweets late Wednesday evening, that there would be another negotiating session between owners and players this Saturday.
I suppose that’s good news, but pitchers and catchers are supposed to report to Spring Training camps February 16. That’s six days from now. No one is in place to do that, there are literally hundreds of unsigned players, and it would seem that the right thing to do would have been to announce a delay — of whatever length — and impress upon people the urgency of the upcoming negotiations.
In my view, this did not happen. Manfred didn’t appear to have any sense of urgency. He claimed that the offer that will be presented Saturday could end in a quick agreement. Hey, maybe he’s right. Until we know what’s actually in that offer, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, although in the past owners’ offers have not moved closer to what players are seeking.
I found this interesting:
Rob Manfred says a lot of the criticism/distrust of him that’s been issued publicly is “tactical.” Cites his many years making labor deals. “I’m the same person today I was in 1998 when I took that labor job (at MLB)."— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) February 10, 2022
I’m going to agree with Rob that he’s the same person he was 24 years ago. An attorney who was hired to represent MLB owners’ views from a legal standpoint. Without trying to disparage any attorneys here, I found his answers to reporters’ questions today very “lawyerly.” He danced around a lot of them and didn’t give direct answers, trying to be very careful. That’s his job, I get it.
There was this:
Rob Manfred says the clubs do not intend to play what would typically be major league spring training games with minor league players. I.e., he doesn’t intend to use replacement players in spring training.— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) February 10, 2022
The major league portion of the Spring Training schedule begins February 26 (there are three MLB vs. college teams games scheduled the previous day in Florida). That’s just 16 days from now. It wouldn’t appear likely those games will be played as scheduled, and Manfred’s statement that effectively, they won’t use “replacement” players is welcomed, though I think MLB owners know they can’t do that in a lockout anyway.
And there’s this, about something Manfred said about the luxury (competitive balance) tax:
A league spokesman said Rob Manfred misspoke about the competitive-balance tax today. What Manfred said was not true. He suggested the penalties for exceeding it are status quo. They are not. Each of the three thresholds is higher. Additionally, draft-pick penalties are higher.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 10, 2022
So, essentially, things are status quo until Saturday.
Opinion: The owners will make an offer Saturday that has some tiny changes toward the players’ position, but not enough that players will make a deal. When players reject it, Manfred will blame them. This is clearly an effort to turn fans’ opinion against players. I would hope fans would see through that. Manfred paid lip service to fans during his news conference, but I don’t see any real position that cares about fans. If there were, there would have been more specific information about Spring Training today. What about fans who want to make plans — or already have — to travel to spring games? What are they supposed to do?
I guess I leave all this with more questions than I had before today. As always, we await developments, particularly what happens after Saturday’s negotiaiting session.