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MLB tells players: Sign a deal by Tuesday or no 162-game season

Ultimatums like this rarely work.

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Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

MLB owners and the MLB Players Association will meet again Tuesday (as of the time of this post, the time of this meeting is not known). That’s good, right?

Not if you take this into account:

Major League Baseball is pointing to a new deadline for players, sources told The Athletic: If a deal is not reached by Tuesday, then MLB has told the union the owners are likely to be unwilling to play a full 162-game schedule, or grant players full pay or service time. MLB also told the Players Association that without a deal Tuesday, MLB plans to cancel another week of games.

Huh. And here I thought owners had already cancelled two series’ worth of regular season games and told players those games were not going to be made up or rescheduled. I’m not the only one who feels that way, either:

This sounds like a “take it or leave it” ultimatum. Here’s what is known so far about what the owners will present to players Tuesday, per the link above from The Athletic:

On Monday, MLB offered to start the competitive balance tax thresholds at $228 million, going to $238 million by the end of the deal, according to sources. But the rest of the proposal is not yet known, and the league’s increase is said to have major strings attached. The players’ last known ask was $238 million, finishing at $263 million at the end of the deal. MLB was at $220 million previously.

“Major strings attached.” That’s kind of been how this negotiation has gone. Players go farther and farther toward what owners have asked, are rejected, and then are told owners will “compromise,” only to find out that compromise has major asks from players that go backwards. It feels like the sort of thing that’s designed to cancel the entire 2022 season and blame players. That’s essentially what happened on the last day of negotiations in Jupiter, Florida. I keep coming back, over and over, to this quote from Toronto Blue Jays player rep Ross Stripling:

As Monday turned into Tuesday and talks continued late into the night, some players got the impression owners were underestimating them.

“It got to be like 12:30 and the fine print of their CBT proposal was stuff we had never seen before,” Stripling said. “They were trying to sneak things through us, it was like they think we’re dumb baseball players and we get sleepy after midnight or something. It’s like that stupid football quote, they are who we thought they were. They did exactly what we thought they would do. They pushed us to a deadline that they imposed, and then they tried to sneak some shit past us at that deadline and we were ready for it. We’ve been ready for five years. And then they tried to flip it on us today in PR, saying that we’ve changed our tone and tried to make it look like it was our fault. That never happened.”

It would seem to me that if owners would simply accept the players’ latest offer, it would still be a big win for ownership’s side. There’s a lot more at this link, an article by Andy McCullough at The Athletic. But owners appear to me to want to go farther, to crush the MLBPA as the NFL did way back in 1987. Players shouldn’t let this happen, in my view. As noted in the first article link above:

One player briefed on discussions said they tilted too far in the league’s favor. Said another player active in the union: “I’m done getting my hopes up.”

Here’s a good summary of where we are, I think:

As always, we await developments.