Monday is the eighth day of negotiations between MLB owners and the players union in Florida, and the 89th day of the league-instituted lockout. It’s also the MLB-imposed deadline for reaching a deal to avoid missing regular season games.
No deal is expected given how far apart the sides are, with tensions heating up over the last few days.
MLB today indicated a willingness to miss a month of games and took a more threatening tone than yesterday, sources briefed on the day’s first meeting between MLB and the Players Association tell me, @Ken_Rosenthal and @FabianArdaya. Full context of conversation not yet known.— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) February 28, 2022
The rhetoric is ratcheting up. As @EvanDrellich said, MLB suggested in the first meeting with the MLBPA today that the league is willing to cancel a month's worth of games. What that means, or whether it's simply a threat, is unclear, but players have taken it as a clear threat.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 28, 2022
So while we wait for the next shoe to drop, let’s read some excellent summaries of where MLB is at at the moment.
Jeff Passan at ESPN wrote a comprehensive piece on MLB owners’ arrogance, calling the lockout and current state of baseball a “self-inflicted crisis.” Here is one excerpt, on players vs. owners:
If you went and got the next 1,200 best players in the world, the product would suffer greatly. If you handed MLB teams over to any 30 competent businesspeople, the sport would not suffer. Actually, it might improve. It doesn’t take a billionaire to leverage a spot in a legalized monopoly with profound built-in revenues.
Andy McCullough at The Athletic stated the labor conflict plainly, and clearly:
The owners initiated this shutdown. The owners waited 43 days to make a proposal. The owners have refused to budge on the relatively modest requests made by the players for a more equitable piece of the industry’s massive revenue pie. The players are willing to grow the pie by diluting the playoffs and sullying their uniforms with ads. They just want to get paid better. The union isn’t rallying for revolution; they’re asking for a cost-of-living raise.
That’s all. That’s it. And the reason baseball is not happening, the reason camps are closed, is because this legal monopoly — the stewards of the sport who have refused to pay minor-leaguers the minimum wage and contracted affiliates and shrunk the draft these past few years — will not pay the players a bit more.
Ken Rosenthal at The Athletic talked about MLB commissioner Rob Manfred fulfilling his own doomsday legacy, noting, “But at this point, it’s fair to wonder whether Manfred has the 23 votes necessary from his owners to approve any proposal.”
Evan Drellich, who has delivered exemplary coverage of MLB labor talks for a long while at The Athletic, opined over the weekend that opening day never had a chance:
The real question now is, when will either side start to crack? When will the financial hit actually make one or both parties reconsider? Because eventually, someone’s position will change. But not until lost money forces that moment.
Marc Normandin has been out in front of the MLB labor beat for years. On Monday at Baseball Prospectus, he provided a history lesson, comparing this lockout to the 1994-95 strike:
The “mistake” of 1994 wasn’t beginning the season without a CBA in place, or a failure to lock the players out. It was the assumption that the owners could just bully their way to the CBA they wanted, and that they could either break the union or outright replace them if that failed. While Manfred and the owners of the present aren’t going to make that exact same mistake, you can certainly see similarities between the plans of 1994 and now. Like the lockout and collusion as lead-ins to ‘94, these players have the very public and very bad faith negotiations of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season on their minds, and the exploitation of every loophole found in the 2016 agreement as well. The owners forced a direct conflict by negotiating just enough to avoid setting off the legal version of “bad faith” bargaining, then locked the players out when time, to the surprise of no one paying attention, ran out on the previous CBA.
Zach Crizer at Yahoo Sports wrote about Manfred never really adjusting after moving from lead labor negotiator to MLB commissioner, and revealing the sport’s ugly truths during his tenure as the latter:
Whether Manfred is an instigator of the league’s campaign to transform an airy, nostalgic sport into a multi-pronged private equity shadow empire — or simply a technocrat overwhelmed by the current landscape’s avalanche of cash and craven team owners — barely matters. He has unintentionally detailed ownership motivations that, for over a century, were largely papered over by records, rivalries and relaxed Sunday matinees.
Now we wait for the next step.