The inevitable has happened. Opening Day has been officially postponed. There will not be any baseball until sometime in April at the earliest, as Rob Manfred announced on Tuesday that the first week of the regular season has been canceled.
Major League Baseball’s owner-imposed lockout is now set to extend into the foreseeable future, as MLB and the Players Association did not come to an agreement on a new CBA before yesterday’s league-set deadline. It came on the heels of a full day of negotiations on Monday that breached the league’s original deadline and carried into the early hours of Tuesday morning, sprouting an ounce of optimism that a deal could perhaps be reached.
But now those talks have been rendered meaningless, because the progress made wasn’t meaningful to begin with — according to what were ostensibly league sources, “significant progress” had been made during the two sides’ marathon session of negotiations. Roughly 12 hours later, it became apparent that the needle moved merely incrementally on Monday and Tuesday morning rather than substantially.
In hindsight, based on how the owners have undeniably negotiated in bad faith throughout the process, Tuesday morning’s purported breakthrough of sorts was probably an attempt by MLB to set up a PR ploy for Tuesday afternoon that would paint the players in an unfavorable light for rejecting the league’s “best, final offer.”
FWIW MLB has pumped to the media last night & today that there’s momentum toward a deal. Now saying the players tone has changed. So if a deal isn’t done today it’s our fault. This isn’t a coincidence. We’ve had the same tone all along. We just want a fair deal/to play ball.— Alex Wood (@Awood45) March 1, 2022
As Opening Day is now delayed, Manfred’s “disastrous outcome” is now a reality, one that he and his bosses have seemingly striven toward. If baseball is in fact a business and nothing more, the league’s owners have made it abundantly clear that that is the case.
The owners imposed a lockout Dec. 2 & framed it as jumpstarting negotiations before going 43 days without negotiating. Then they set an arbitrary deadline. Then they threatened to miss a month of games. Then they utilized public rhetoric to apply 11th-hour pressure. What a time. https://t.co/tzAHqcZzH7— Alec Lewis (@alec_lewis) March 1, 2022
The final proposal that MLB sent to the players (and was quickly rejected) included various tweaks to prior offers, but did not feature any major improvements. Here were some of the key points:
The full details of MLB's final offer, according to a union official:— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) March 1, 2022
- Pre-arbitration bonus pool at $30 million with no increases
- Minimum salary of $700,000 up to $740,000
- No changes to CBT thresholds of $220m/$220/$220/$224/$230
Perhaps the most contentious issue has been the Competitive Balance Tax (CBT). Previously set at $210 million in 2021 under the expired CBA, a $10 million increase — that would then level off for three years — simply did not align with the reported revenue increases over the last several years.
just a reminder that if the CBT had grown with revenues over recent CBAs, the CBT would be at $297m. https://t.co/uG0KhCYWnq— Crago (@cdgoldstein) March 1, 2022
Additionally, Baseball America’s JJ Cooper highlighted the stagnation of CBT growth during the 2010s:
2012-2021 CBT increase (past 2 CBAs)— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) March 1, 2022
2003-2011 CBT increase (previous 2 CBAs)
To be fair, it could be argued that the players made their own bed last decade by agreeing to such lousy terms, but this time around their union seems to have more conviction — game checks will be sacrificed as they attempt to hash out a fair labor deal. What could be the source of their revamped strength and unity is their collective disdain for the game’s commissioner, who has called the World Series trophy “a piece of metal.”
A photo of Manfred practicing his golf swing during yesterday’s doomed labor talks will only add fuel to the fire:
Associated Press photo taken by Lynne Sladky earlier this afternoon of MLB commissioner Rob Manfred at Roger Dean Stadium, where labor talks are being held. pic.twitter.com/isAzV6P86o— Michael Silverman (@MikeSilvermanBB) March 1, 2022
For as unlikable as Manfred is — he may well be the most unpopular sports commissioner in recent memory — he is but an extension of his bosses, the league’s 30 owners, who ESPN’s Jeff Passan essentially described as utterly replaceable. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, who is perhaps the most respected and renowned reporter in the industry, recently penned a critical piece of his own, stating the following:
“The owners are so intent on a zero-sum victory, so cavalier about the possibility of missing games, they do not even care how fans might interpret their actions.”
I have yet to see a more accurate summation of the lockout.