MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is meeting with his hierarchy of owners Thursday in Orlando, Florida. Later, he will address the media regarding the status of a lockout that has become nasty with the league and MLBPA.
Don’t expect any optimism towards an agreement that would prevent a delay of spring training camps from opening next week. The spring training schedule is bound to be disrupted and as days pass with this deadlock in negotiations, the start of a new baseball season is in peril.
I am leaning more towards a continued stalemate and spring training facilities will belong to the minor league players because they are not a part of the 40-man rosters of big league clubs. Over 1,200 players comprise the MLBPA and though the players say they are fighting for their future and financial security, they are looking to change the financial structure of a system that to them, is not adequate.
Though we are aware this is a battle between millionaires and billionaires, a loyal base of fans don’t want to hear the issues. Fans want baseball and they probably won’t see the game anytime soon. Numbers to them are about batting averages, percentages, and wins on the field.
Again, as this continues, when the owners and players have a brief face-to-face and meet at the table, it is obvious every day lost is detrimental to the game and their fan base. They need to meet and players have rejected a process of Federal mediation which further complicates where this is going.
So instead of talking about construction of rosters or analyzing an outlook of 30 teams, always an interesting take prior to Super Bowl Sunday, we are racing against the clock and facing a deadline. One side has to budge with a counteroffer and the talks are going nowhere.
I contacted a few players. They are sitting on the sidelines. They have been in their offseason physical regimes at home, throwing a ball, picking up a bat in their backyards or at a local facility. Instead, they would rather be packing their bags and departing to Florida and Arizona baseball complexes.
“I’m frustrated, we all are,” a player commented to me. Of course, ballplayers talking would prefer their anonymity here, expected to not disrupt the negotiation process. They are leaving this complicated financial structure to their union and those that are involved in the bargaining process.
But this needs to be hammered out and soon. You would cheer and applaud if Manfred says Thursday, he is ending the lockout and negotiations would continue during spring training or into the new baseball season, but that is a dream and not reality.
Players and owners have had plenty of time to settle their differences and we would not be at this point had they agreed to a new CBA. The last thing the owners want is a season to start, negotiations continue at a snail’s pace, and the players decide to force a strike with their powerful union.
In labor disputes, a lockout and a strike are two different entities. Management shuts down the players as they have control. Players and their powerful union have the ability to strike, though not legal by any means, and the history of unions and a strike in baseball is more complicated than a batter swinging and missing a pitch. In the end, though, neither side is winning here. The game suffers as fans take their interests elsewhere, because employees versus management and strikes lead to the courts and legal system. The players will get paid through their strike fund but minimal compared to a salary of millions that commences from game 1 to 162.
You will read, as I do daily, the issues. You will read about the salary structures, free agency periods and arbitration process, how draft picks are constructed, and those words of salary thresholds and luxury taxes.
You will continue to hear about competitive balance and a fair share. And that word about tanking because some teams will not spend and work towards more draft picks. The Royals’ Whit Merrifield was quoted in “The Athletic” and said, “There’s a flaw in the way our CBA is structured, and there’s an exploitation with young players.”
“Young players,” he said, “bring such a value to the game that they’re not being fairly compensated for it. And that’s a big thing. There’s too much losing going on, intentional losing at that. And so, we’ve got to address that.”
So tanking is another issue. Then again, explain a Tampa Bay Rays salary threshold and 2021 team payroll $43,741, 666, second lowest among teams and how they remain competitive and still won 100 games? The Rays remain competitive and build through an enriched player development system and some teams are good at that.
The Rays could be an exception. So could the Miami Marlins and their cost conscious spending with players coming through their system. If you follow, there is an inequity that exists among teams and the players want that to change.
It’s complicated and I truly don’t know the logistics and specifics as I am not an analyst of labor management, heck I can’t even balance my accounts at times. However, what’s easy to understand, spring training is in jeopardy as the clock ticks towards the baseball season and anticipated Opening Day both in peril.
All we want to hear is spring training. All we should be doing is counting those days to pitchers and catchers reporting to camp. All we want is that countdown clock to Opening Day.
And all we want is the players and owners to get to that table and get this resolved which is the right thing to do.
Gerald Williams: Baseball mourns the passing of former New York Yankees outfielder Gerald Williams who also played with the Atlanta Braves and the Mets and was a well liked player in the clubhouse, on the field, and with the media.
His good friend and former teammate Derek Jeter announced on The Player’s Tribune website that Williams, 55-years old, had lost his battle to Cancer.
“Gerald Williams passed away this morning after a battle with cancer. To my teammate and one of my best friends in the world, rest in peace, my brother. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Lilana and their whole family,” Jeter said in a statement.
Williams was a former teammate and friend of Pedro Borbon Jr. the Bronx raised and Dominican Republic native, and son of former Reds’ pitcher Pedro Borbon.
Borbon was one of three Atlanta Braves to appear on “Saturday Night Live” when he made a cameo appearance alongside teammates Williams and Mark Wohlers.
“It was a great experience,” Borbon said to me when I contacted him in Houston Texas. “He was a great competitor, one of the most disciplined athletes I ever played with, wasn’t a drinker, and ate healthy one of the reasons it’s hard to believe he died of cancer. I’m going to miss him. I had some great times with him.”
RIP Gerald Williams. Condolences to his family, friends, and teammates he played with.
Rich Mancuso: [email protected] Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso