During the often-contentious collective bargaining talks between MLB owners and the MLB Players Association, I have frequently been told that my articles are too pro-player and that if I take this side, I should “own it.”
Okay, you asked for it, this article is going to be 100 percent pro-player and I will absolutely own it. The reason we don’t have a deal right now is all on owners. Let me explain.
I’ll begin with this from Max Scherzer, who’s on the players’ Executive Council:
I was in FL. We never offered the Int’l Draft. We did discuss it, but MLB told us they were NOT going to offer anything for it. At that point, we informed all players & agreed to no draft.— Max Scherzer (@Max_Scherzer) March 10, 2022
This is MLB muddying the waters & deflecting blame. Fans, pls hang in there with us.
This has been a consistent theme with owners. We appear “close to a deal” — you’ll see tweets from ownership shills Bob Nightengale and Jon Heyman to that effect — then MLB puts something on the table that wasn’t previously there and that players will almost certainly reject. It pretty much feels like this:
This is very much Lucy and the football again. https://t.co/U3YHCBy2qr— Mike Wilner (@Wilnerness) March 9, 2022
It almost feels as if owners don’t want to make a deal at all, but instead are trying to break the union. Honestly, it seems like owners have been trying to break the MLBPA since free agency first came into being in 1975. It didn’t work then and isn’t going to work now.
Look at this part of MLB’s statement, sent out under Commissioner Rob Manfred’s name, after he cancelled another week’s worth of games:
We worked hard to reach an agreement and offered a fair deal with significant improvements for the players and our fans. I am saddened by this situation’s continued impact on our game and all those who are a part of it, especially our loyal fans.
We have the utmost respect for our players and hope they will ultimately choose to accept the fair agreement they have been offered.
Does anyone seriously believe that? That owners have “the utmost respect” for players and that this is a “fair agreement”? If you blame players, consider this:
MLB, routinely hammered in the PR game during this - even with its own network & website at its disposal for messaging - had a better day today but trying to pass off the international draft as a suggested bargaining chip by the MLBPA, which has opposed it forever, was badly done— Erik Boland (@eboland11) March 9, 2022
Let’s look at the things players originally had hoped for in this agreement and dropped from their wish list, via Andy McCullough in The Athletic, who asked players at last year’s All-Star Game what they were seeking:
• They wanted to get to free agency earlier. “How long teams have control over you is too much, for me,” Oakland pitcher Chris Bassitt said.
• They wanted to get to arbitration sooner. Marcus Semien, a member of the MLBPA executive subcommittee who signed a $175 million deal with Texas this winter, said he felt the arbitration system was fair, but “we just want guys to be in that system at an appropriate age.”
• They wanted to raise the big-league minimum salary. “I think they should adjust the structure to where guys get paid a little more earlier on,” Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto said.
Of those, only the minimum salary is currently being addressed in talks. And granted, MLB’s offers of minimum salary in the most recent presentation to players were pretty close to what players had been seeking (only about $10,000 apart). But given MLB’s history in this negotiation, who’s to say they won’t play “Lucy and the football” again and pull that back for some wedge issue that owners want? That’s been their pattern. In another article posted late Wednesday, McCullough summed up where we stand now:
After two days of incremental progress between the owners and the MLBPA, after the appearance of daylight at the end of this lockout, the two sides dissolved into the sort of acrimony that has characterized their relationship for years. The union balked at the introduction of a draft for international amateurs, and later felt buffaloed by an MLB negotiating tactic they considered an ultimatum. When the players decided to reject MLB’s gambit, the owners canceled games. It was the sort of outcome that optimists across the sport had hoped to avoid, and the sort of outcome the commissioner could reverse, as long as a new collective bargaining agreement is struck soon.
Because the situation could deteriorate from here. With the possibility of 162 games becoming more remote, the talks could stall. The players are expected to seek full salaries. The owners may not concede. But without full pay, the MLBPA has vowed to not authorize the expansion of the playoffs — a revenue boon for the owners that is part of both proposals.
This is a good summation of “MLB’s gambit”:
"Sorry, can't accept the offer."— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) March 10, 2022
"Isn't this what you wanted yesterday?"
"Yes, we'd still accept it."
"Then why aren't you?
"Well, see, it's past the deadline."
"But it's what you want!"
"It's the deadline was set."
"You can change it!"
"My hands are tied."
"It's your deadline!" https://t.co/IuPbMjiW0K
In other words: MLB couldn’t accept MLB’s deal because of MLB’s made-up deadline.
Even the concept of “deadline” in these talks seems pretty fluid now. At first Monday was set as a deadline to have a full 162-game season. Then Tuesday. Then Tuesday’s talks went late into the night and continued Wednesday, and no mention was made by anyone of a 6 p.m. ET deadline... until suddenly there was one.
Can you see why players don’t trust owners? What will be their next offer that looks good on the surface, only to have a poison pill attached — like the draft did, with the possibility of re-opening the CBA after only three years?
I love the, “This is easy. Just take the deal to break back open the CBA after three years” crowd. It’s not just draft at that point. Everything open for debate. And it’s more like MLB is doing “take it or leave it” which isn’t a great way to roll. It’s “last best offer” vibe— Maury Brown (@BizballMaury) March 9, 2022
We don’t do politics here — unless it’s directly related to baseball, and this is:
Enough. After almost 100 days of the MLB lockout, it’s time to reconsider MLB’s special antitrust exemption, which allows them to act as a lawful monopoly. Fans across America deserve better.— Senator Dick Durbin (@SenatorDurbin) March 10, 2022
Message to the owners: unlock the lockout and play ball.
I cannot imagine MLB owners would like to have their century-old antitrust exemption revoked, and I don’t know how serious Sen. Durbin is about this or how much support such an issue would receive in Congress (NARRATOR: “Probably not much.”). Further, I ask that if you comment on this part of this article, that you limit any political talk to this topic alone. Unrelated political comments will be deleted without notice, per site rules.
We all want baseball. That’s our common reason for being here at Bleed Cubbie Blue, our love for the game and the Chicago Cubs. Make no mistake, owners started this lockout and owners could have ended it at any time while continuing to negotiate. Instead, we’ve got a mess that, as Andy McCullough notes:
The players have insisted they will not bend at the behest of management. That pursuit may grow more difficult as April approaches, and the prospect of recouping those checks becomes more remote. The potential fight for full salaries could galvanize the group, as it did during the squabbling amid the pandemic in 2020. But it also could delay the acquiescence apparently sought by the owners.
The sky will clear. The weather will improve. The situation may not.
Joe Posnanski probably expresses a lot of what you’re feeling right now:
Maybe I picked the wrong year to write a book called WHY WE LOVE BASEBALL.— Joe Posnanski (@JPosnanski) March 9, 2022
I’ll give the last word to another player, Giants lefthander Alex Wood:
Deadlines and ultimatums haven’t worked well so far no matter what “side” of the table you’re on or support. I just don’t understand why we need to keep canceling games and giving deadlines. Let’s just meet every day until we can do the one thing we all want. To play baseball.— Alex Wood (@Awood45) March 10, 2022
As always, we await developments. They just might not be the developments you’re hoping for.
This time, choose one or the other, not "both equally." Who’s to blame for the current labor situation in baseball?
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