The first three days of negotiations this week between MLB owners and the MLB Players Association were a slow walk to nowhere. Proposals were exchanged between the two sides, but neither moved very far, and nothing at all was said about the competitive balance (“luxury”) tax, which is the key issue separating the parties. This Jeff Passan thread explains that issue quite well — read the entire thread:
THREAD: I’d like to talk about the CBT. Today was the third consecutive day of bargaining, and neither the league nor the union has made a proposal on the competitive-balance tax, which is vital seeing as it is almost certainly going to determine whether opening day is March 31.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 24, 2022
Prior to this week’s negotiations beginning, MLB owners had set next Monday, February 28 as a deadline for reaching agreement on a deal or the start of the 2022 regular season might be delayed. After Wednesday’s negotiating session, they made that a hard deadline:
A Major League Baseball spokesperson said tonight that if a deal is not in place by Feb. 28, regular season games will be canceled. “A deadline is a deadline,” the spokesperson said. Player pay would not be recouped, nor would those games be rescheduled, the spokesperson said.— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) February 23, 2022
MLB spokesperson’s full statement: “A deadline is a deadline. Missed games are missed games. Salary will not be paid for those games.”— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) February 23, 2022
Gauntlet, thrown. Our SB Nation friends at Lookout Landing have helpfully translated that MLB statement:
to be fair, "a deadline that we imposed after sitting on our hands for six weeks for a lockout we instituted that we could also end at any time but won't because we're engaged in a ham-handed smear campaign using legacy media is a deadline" is a much clunkier soundbite— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) February 24, 2022
And if you don’t believe them, maybe you’ll believe San Francisco Giants pitcher Alex Wood, who said essentially the same thing:
It’s fascinating MLB setting a hard deadline to play a full season for Monday. They locked us out. Had barely any contact for two months post lockout. Have yet to make a single good faith offer to even initiate real conversations to get a deal done. Just make a real offer .— Alex Wood (@Awood45) February 24, 2022
So let’s make no mistake here. This is a move by owners to try to force a deal that’s not going to be good for players. Jeff Passan’s thread on the CBT makes it clear that owners are going to continue to try to hold salaries down and give players an ever-shrinking piece of the overall revenue from the sport. It is true that over the last 20 years or so of collective bargaining agreements between the parties, and especially in the last two agreements in 2011 and 2016, players gave up quite a bit. They’d like to recoup some of those givebacks. Owners would like status quo. That’s the simplest explanation of what’s happening here.
A couple more points. To reiterate:
Another note from today: In addition to MLB intending to cancel games if no deal is in place by Monday, the league doesn't intend to rewrite the schedule. The schedule would simply pick up whenever games begin.— Jared Diamond (@jareddiamond) February 24, 2022
This has the possibility of being blatantly unfair to some teams if, say, the season were to begin at the beginning of May as currently scheduled. Not only would some teams have tougher or easier schedules depending on who they’re scheduled to play in April, but a scheme like this would undoubtedly result in teams playing an unequal number of games.
That happened in 1972 and might have cost the Boston Red Sox a chance to win the AL East. In ‘72 (standings here), most teams played 154 or 155 games. But some — including the Detroit Tigers — played 156, and the Tigers’ 86-70 record gave them the AL East title by half a game over the 85-70 Red Sox. Can you imagine the Twitter outrage if that happened in 2022? It would be a real possibility given MLB’s statement Wednesday.
And a reminder from last week:
Last thing: Heard MLBPA has told MLB not to expect expanded playoffs in 2022 if players miss the chance to play a full 162 and be compensated for the full season.— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) February 18, 2022
Well. MLB specifically stated Wednesday that if games are missed, players won’t be paid for a full season. Given that, owners won’t get their expanded playoffs, which is where the really big money is — per Evan Drellich of The Athletic, “at least $100 million annually.”
Both sides in this dispute said they’d work through the weekend to try to put a deal together. Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports:
The players have spoken to the owners directly. A person familiar with the union’s thinking said he believes the owners are listening. The owners and MLB representatives have spoken to the players directly, and a person familiar with MLB’s thinking said he believes the players are listening.
They will meet again Thursday, and both sides know the pace of play must improve.
It’s surely possible that this slow pace will pick up over the weekend and some point will be found on which MLB owners and players can agree and the 2022 season can begin. I have to say that I am not optimistic at this time, given the statements made by MLB late Wednesday. There is a very real chance that the 2022 season won’t happen at all. I hope I’m wrong.
As always, we await developments.
The 2022 MLB regular season...
This poll is closed
... will start on time and have its full 162 games
... will have between 120 and 161 games
... will have between 81 and 119 games
... will have fewer than 81 games
... will be cancelled in its entirety
Who is to blame for the current owners/players dispute?
This poll is closed
Owners and players equally