Major League Baseball, the MLBPA, and player agents all have different priorities as they enter into a new collective bargaining agreement. How will these various interests be handled? Will there be peace in baseball when it returns?
The “mlb insider” is the official website of Major League Baseball. The site has been busy with news and rumors related to the upcoming lockout. The MLBPA needs to get their priorities straight, because they are going to lose a lot if this goes on for too long.
One industry insider bemoaned the status of the game only hours before the players and owners’ negotiating teams met on Thursday. According to the insider, each side is entrenched and enraged. “I’m not sure where we go from here,” he said. “I truly don’t think so. Everyone has been pushed into a corner.”
With the sport seems to be heading for at least some downtime, now is an excellent moment for everyone involved to ask themselves hard questions about how they contributed to a wholly poisonous working environment, and what they can (and must) do to affect change.
1. Why can’t we focus on the bigger picture? The proprietors need to free themselves from the cancerous incrementalism that has infected their sport, something their extraordinary collective wealth should allow them to do. It’s not evident that some of The proprietors are capable of this, though, given the small-minded decisions over the past couple of years, such as when the Oakland Athletics proposed to cut the salaries of their minor leaguers from $400 to $300 a week during the COVID-19 shutdown, or the league’s choice to cut about a quarter of the minor league clubs despite an annual savings of less than $2 million per team.
But The proprietors need to recognize that even if they prevail in a long-term standoff with the players and end up with a slightly bigger pile of money, their product would be damaged, perhaps irreparably. Some fans would stay away forever, and the players’ anger would persist. The proprietors need the players to be on board to build the sport, through on-field changes and promotion.
Whatever revenue The proprietors might sacrifice with a major, decisive concession in the competitive balance tax would be more than offset in the years ahead through MLB growth.
2. Why are we trying to safeguard a system that encourages people to lose? Consider the following scenario: The Baltimore Orioles (among others, following the lead of even more clubs) have decided that it’s better to lose and pretend they’re selling a big league product by cutting their salary to nothing. Is this really so dissimilar to the infamous conduct of players on the 1919 Chicago White Sox, who chose financial gain above competitive ethics and sank the World Series?
The goal of such consistent loss is to develop a farm system with a plethora of high draft selections. Despite this, MLB encourages a culture in which the finest and most interesting players are kept in the minor leagues much longer than they should be for the purpose of financial gain. The most well-known examples are Kris Bryant and Jarred Kelenic, but there’s another in Baltimore: Former No. 1 pick Adley Rutschman has been the Orioles’ finest catcher — and one of their greatest players — for a long time, but if Baltimore continues to manipulate his service time, he won’t make his big league debut until he’s 2412 years old.
These noncompetitive behaviors are bad for baseball. The proprietors should be as devoted to ending them as the players’ union is. Some agents and club executives have laughed at the notion that the proposed draft lottery would compel tanking teams to spend. “In fact, some of those teams [that don’t want to spend more money on a higher pick] might prefer to have the sixth player in the draft, rather than the first,” one longtime agent said.
3. Where’s the leadership? Not everyone among The proprietors agrees privately with how these negotiations have played out; it’s easy to imagine the leaders of big-market teams watching the shutdown with incredulity. But will anyone among the dissenters actually step out and speak up?
With the players’ strike still going on in the spring of 1995, management devised an outlandish scheme to sell clubs on replacement players — scabs in the union’s perspective — as a major league product. Peter Angelos, the owner of the Baltimore Orioles, declined to engage in the absurd ruse. Yes, part of his motivations were self-serving: he wanted to safeguard his team’s most valuable asset, Cal Ripken Jr.’s unbroken game record, and he knew how hypocritical he would’ve seemed as a lawsuit lawyer representing union members. Angelos, on the other hand, was prepared to take a stance at that time, and thus undermined an effort at stupidity that should never have been tried.
Baseball is in desperate need of someone who is ready to stand out from the crowd.
An oral history of the 1994 Major League Baseball strike, which nearly ended the sport. Tim Kurkjian is a writer who lives in New York City.
But if The proprietors move substantively and a better deal comes within reach, Clark, now working alongside longtime attorney Bruce Meyer, might want to admit his own mistakes in years past and advise the players that what’s on the table represents a suitable improvement. As one agent said, “It might take 15 years, or three CBA negotiations, to get back to where you were before. You can’t expect to get it all back at once.”
2. Why didn’t we get started on this earlier? In the months leading up to the CBA’s expiry, late union head Michael Weiner worked with Major League Baseball to solve the knotty challenges. In the last two CBA discussions, Clark has adopted a totally different strategy, waiting and waiting before going into the key concerns.
The players are rightly furious about some of The proprietors’ tactics and PR spin. But is it possible the union would be better served by a Weiner-style engagement? Moving forward, could the business relationship be improved by more consistent dialogue?
The executive committee, led by Max Scherzer,
Ron Blum/AP Photo
1. For whom are we really fighting? With discussions between the two sides frozen, now is the time for the executive committee to consider if there is a better method to get money into the hands of the union’s middle class.
That middle class has taken the biggest hit in recent years, with the average middle-class free-agent contract plummeting by almost half, from $11.8 million in 2014 to $6.2 million last winter. When this labor stoppage ends, it’s that group who will pay the biggest price for the lost revenues of The proprietors’ lockout: Teams will reduce their budgets and their offers to longtime veterans who are not stars.
The most prominent calls for more compensation for players — a higher minimum wage and a pool of money being discussed to reward budding stars — are unlikely to benefit these athletes. Some agents and club officials believe that clubs will continue to refuse arbitration-eligible players, which will simply increase the free-agent pool, and that the bonus money will flow to the top tier of young players.
The union’s leadership has indicated that it would never agree to a wage cap or any other arrangement that would limit what any player may earn. However, as some agents point out, that principle may not always be in the best interests of the rank and file.
It may be too late for the players to build and propose a structure that serves the interests of all levels of players, as the NBA union seems to have done. However, the union has changed its opinion before. In the 1990s, union officials opposed drug testing, claiming the notion of private rights as justification. In 2002, however, players persuaded union leadership that the previous position didn’t safeguard the interests of those who wanted to stay clean in the face of widespread performance-enhancing drug usage. Those athletes requested testing so they wouldn’t feel forced to use drugs just to stay in the game. The union consented to the first drug testing program after abandoning that position.
Right present, the highest-paid players are doing very well, with yearly incomes reaching new highs. The middle-class players, on the other hand, are rapidly losing ground. They will need assistance in the coming years.
Baseball tonight twitter is a website that provides news and updates about the MLB. The site has been running for over 10 years, but it seems as though the MLBPA and MLB are not getting their priorities straight. If they don’t get their priorities straight soon, there will be a lockout in baseball. Reference: baseball tonight twitter.
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