As MLB and the Players Association failed to reach a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) by the team owners’ self-imposed deadline, commissioner Rob Manfred delayed Opening Day and canceled the first two series of the season.
While the players continued to drop their demands and lower their asks throughout the process, the owners did not negotiate in good faith, asking players to essentially take pay cuts when adjusted for inflation despite the sport’s rising revenue.
It has appeared to owners are more intent on breaking the union than getting a deal done as the ramifications for getting an agreement done soon would cost the owners more money in the long run than missing regular season games now would.
But despite the owners unwillingness to hold good-faith negotiations, Los Angeles Angels star Jared Walsh still had some hope they would be able to get a deal done to avoid canceling any games, he told Sam Blum of The Athletic:
“I don’t want to say that I expected it. I think that both sides are pretty savvy. I think that the players were kind of aware of some of the things we needed to recoup. I don’t want to say that I expected games to be canceled or anything like that. I was kind of optimistic that we were eventually going to come to a deal. But you kind of always know in these bargaining negotiations that is a possibility unfortunately. I kind of told them in the group message that it is a possibility. And unfortunately, that’s what’s occurred.”
Each day that goes by without a deal, the players will continue to lose money. The union has already issued stipends to the players for this month, with another one set to be distributed on April 1, but the union has more pressure to get a deal done as their funds are much more limited.
While it is often seen as “millionaires fighting billionaires,” this is far from the true case. Roughly 70% of players protected by the CBA earn less than $1 million each season. According to FiveThirtyEight, it takes most players slightly more than three years of service time to reach $1 million after taxes, agent fees and union fees are paid, while the average amount of service time a player earns in their career is 3.71 years.
Players who are on the 40-man roster but don’t have Major League experience make less than $45,000 per year.
While it seems likely they will eventually need to give in to the owners and take an unfair deal to get back on the field, Walsh says the players are remaining positive and are committed to getting a deal done that will benefit them all in the long-term:
“I’ve spoken to a few. It seems pretty positive. I think what we tried to really lay out is that we’ve got to think big picture here — long-term. I think that if we’re a little too overzealous and we need to sign something just to get back on the field, it might not be beneficial long-term. So I’m just trying to communicate to them that if we think big picture, all stay united, and stay patient, something good is going to happen.”
So far, what the players have asked for is far from unreasonable. They essentially want each club to spend an extra $5 million per season on players who have not yet reached arbitration and are unable to negotiate a contract. Yet, owners have countered with total payroll cuts and an extra $1 million from each club.
At the end of the day, the players’ request would still be a very pro-owner deal and the owners wouldn’t even notice the extra $5 million per season, especially while revenue keeps rising in the sport and the new TV deal kicks in that will guarantee at least $100 million to every club.
Mike Trout, Noah Syndergaard, Michael Lorenzen criticize Rob Manfred
Shortly after MLB announced the canceled games, players began voicing their displeasure with commissioner Rob Manfred and MLB for negotiating in bad faith and imposing unnecessary deadlines. Angels superstar Mike Trout — as well as pitchers Noah Syndergaard and Michael Lorenzen — took to Twitter to do the same.
Trout, often known for his quiet demeanor, did not hold back in a short, but biting message directed at Manfred.