10-26-21 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter
Well, I suggest if you’re a fan of baseball, you swallow all your hate and resentment for the Braves and Astros, because the World Series could very well be the last MLB product we get to watch for a while.
It’s no secret that MLB and the MLBPA don’t trust one another, but there’s a reason this is being so widely reported, because both sides are dug in, and they aren’t within shouting distance of agreement.
MLB has had relative labor peace since 1994 fueled largely by the union making concessions when it came to young players and the owners just about giving in on most issues. The time for that is over. The players have nothing left to give on young players, in fact they desperately need for the sake of solidarity to convince them that the union has their back too.
The owners want more cost control, even as the league revenues continue to rise. Their most widely leaked proposal is just shy of a salary cap, it’s not going far enough to truly fix the game, but enough for the players to recognize what it symbolizes. They proposed a 180 million dollar Competitive Balance Tax (CBT), you probably know this as the luxury tax. It’s a pretty drastic reduction and in addition MLB wants to stiffen the penalty for exceeding it.
They’re claiming this extra CBT money would increase the associated revenue sharing allowing other teams who otherwise couldn’t or wouldn’t to reach their new salary floor of 100 million.
The players think that smells like a cap, and I guess they’re right, but it’s really more like putting a cap on a candle with a couple holes drilled in it, it’ll still burn, just not as bright. In other words, it doesn’t really stop the problem at hand, just quiets it a bit.
It’s also funny they call this CBT, because it realistically has nothing to do with true competitive balance, it’s more about trying to keep the overall percentage of payroll figures from increasing, something that’s happened successfully the last two years as the average salary of an MLB player has fallen each of the last two campaigns.
What you can call this proposal is MLB wanting to keep wages down by making sure the teams that regularly set the market, don’t. They’ll try to sell it by saying yeah but all these guys (Cheapo Pirates, Orioles) will now have to spend THIS MUCH! The fact is, something like this even being leaked is a very bright sign that a lock out is on the way.
There’s also little chance the owners will come out of this negotiation without expanded playoffs, the players won’t give that for nothing. As a singular issue, they could probably agree on this one if only because MLB could point to increased playoff revenue and give the players a nice percentage of the new revenue stream. Gang it with all the other issues and it becomes a beacon of the only additional dollars they’re offering.
Point is folks, it’s happening. I don’t know when it’ll end, but I don’t see the owners letting it go into Spring where the Players could embarrass them with a strike, so I’d put my money on a lockout. They could do it right away after the World Series if they so chose, in the past they have immediately chosen to freeze free agency, really their chatter about changing the CBT is already going to at least slow it way down.
Throughout the years it’s not like this is unprecedented.
In 1972 the players went on strike because they weren’t happy about pension levels. This was during the season and only lasted a couple weeks.
One year later in 1973 the owners locked out the players during Spring Training because they wanted to change salary arbitration structure.
1976 the owners again, this time to address free agency, at this point it was a boiling issue and badly needed someone to formally structure it.
1980 The players struck back over the same issue with a strike during Spring Training
1981 it had to start feeling like this was constantly a problem, I’d love to hear from some of you old timers out there, this predates me and people didn’t really write about their feelings in 81. Two months of games were lost and it was still about free agency, this time the compensation not how it was implemented.
In 1985 a super great movie about time travel came out and the players again went on strike over pensions and arbitration, two days, blip.
Back to the back and forth, in 1990 the owners locked out the players over arbitration and free agency, this time it pushed back the opening of the season.
1994 the mother of all labor disputes. Players went on strike because the owners wanted a salary cap. We lost the 1994 postseason and a significant chunk of the 1995 season. This one was ended by a federal judge who simply kicked them back to the original CBA.
That was the moment folks. 1994
This was a response to the Yankees signing an at the time gigantic TV deal in excess of 50 million. Every team in the league knew what this would eventually mean for the game, and it’s exactly where we are. They had the numbers, they had the will, and they had the case.
They’re getting back to those thoughts now, and this time they have the precedents in place to not fear the Federal courts.
Problem is I think they’re missing the other two elements.
A lockout or strike isn’t something to fear, it’s happened before, and last time it led to quite a long stretch of peace. So long that there simply aren’t a lot of players left who went through it, perhaps that’ll give them the stomach to go through it.
You’ll hear people say this is damaging the game, or killing the sport. Of course, and you’ll hear that often quoted millionaires vs billionaires line. But this head was forming for quite some time, and at some point it has to pop.
Baseball has some problems that neither side can realistically turn a blind eye to anymore, and the good news is there is a path to everything both sides want, as long as enough people in that room are smart enough to stop getting triggered by historic bad words.
Now, I’ll openly tell you this has to happen for the game. Is that rooting?
Eh, to me it’s more of an acceptance that we’ve reached a boiling point, it’s going to happen, now it’s really about do things get better or worse.
For instance, I’d love to tell you Bob Nutting would be in there railing for a salary cap system (and for whoever has their fingers hovering over their keyboard right now to tell me a floor too, yes, they aren’t capable of function without each other) but Bob Nutting is a terrible spokesperson for this effort.
You want someone like Mark Attanasio the Brewers Owner, he can literally say he tried, physically show it and prove the system makes it nearly impossible. Bob can show you he’s made more money than Mr. Attanasio at best. There are others, enough to actually form a good coalition, one that Bob could be part of, just not a vocal part.
Without a stoppage, it’s more of the same, if you’re ok with that, we disagree. Doesn’t make you wrong or me right, but I’m not likely to change my mind on what this league needs.