By now, anyone who has spent time following the MLB work stoppage knows that there has been close to zero progress made in the seven weeks since owners imposed the lockout. In fact, the Players Association and the league have had frighteningly little communication at all.
In December, progress wasn’t to be expected. The soft deadline of potentially missing games was still months away, meaning neither side had any reason to give up leverage in negotiations. But now, with less than one month before pitchers and catchers are supposed to report to Spring Training, fans are getting nervous.
The prospect of games being missed feels more likely than ever, and — as it always has — it all comes down to owners refusing to give up any of their financial gains. And if they ever do make a proposal that satisfies the players financially, there’s always an asterisk.
This has been the top criticism of the Players Association as we near two months since the lockout began, according to Evan Drellich of The Athletic:
MLB has indeed made proposals that technically address areas like pay for young players. But in most if not all cases, those gives have been small, at best, and sometimes, they shouldn’t rightly be considered gives at all. These proposals are rarely made in isolation. They’re made as packages, where acceptance of one condition requires acceptance of others. Thus far, league packages have come with trade-offs that the players feel ultimately would make their standing worse overall, or would not meaningfully improve it.
Drellich dove deeper into some example of how the league has attempted give and take type proposals, where what the players would have to give up is even more valuable than what they would be getting.
For example, one of the reasons the players so disliked the proposal MLB made in August to institute a salary floor was because it came with modifications to the luxury tax that would’ve severely hampered free agency. The owners have offered to raise the luxury tax thresholds slightly, while simultaneously increasing the penalties to exceed them. And on the question of getting younger players paid more, MLB keeps offering to pay players by a formula that, in the short term, might bring a little more money to players, but would also sacrifice the salary arbitration process — a mechanism players greatly value because it allows them to argue for higher pay to a third party.
This is just another long-winded way of saying that we are no closer to a resolution than we were on Dec. 1, showing a sad state of affairs in Major League Baseball. Since games — Spring Training or regular season — have yet to be missed, the blame game is still very much in effect.
However, when February and March roll around, fans will no longer care who is at fault. They will simply be upset that games are being lost due to financial greed, and it would hurt a league that is already struggling to keep up with the other major American sports.
On-field issues to be dealt with separately
One of the few things that has been agreed to by both sides is how they want to structure negotiations, reportedly. The league believes that both sides would be better off separating on-field rule changes from core economic discussions. To this point, there have been minimal discussions on both fronts.