12-4-21 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter
Major League Baseball is in a Lockout.
I know, breaking news right? The first instance I can find of Craig or I telling you this was coming dates all the way back to December of 2019. We literally called a lockout coming as opposed to a more generic work stoppage.
There’s a reason, it was painfully obvious.
For decades now, the owners played fast and loose with ignoring the economic realities of the game. The players have ignored the realities of how young players have fared in the game, and finally neither side has enough left to offer.
The players have no more to give on young players, the owners can’t control the growing chasm between the Mega and Mid markets, let alone small.
Here we are.
Rob Manfred penned a letter to the fans explaining why they had to do this. Read it if you like, or simply take my synopsis if you prefer.
I take issue with pretending they had to do this, but I do think as I said, the two sides are so far apart and made such little progress it was either going to be this way or a strike was coming. In other words, you can pick a bad guy in this situation if you like, but someone was going to stop the process to force negotiations to get serious. Now or later, this was happening. Now, I could argue since even a rube like me knew this was coming for over two years, maybe they could have talked like adults and made some progress toward something, or hey here’s an idea, maybe someone could have actually put forward an idea that moved the process forward.
Instead, both focused on trying to score points. Looks a lot like the US Congress if I’m honest. Propose a bill with one thing everyone agrees with built in, and 3 or 4 hundred things one side absolutely considers to be a show stopper, then sell to the public that the other side doesn’t support that one thing everyone likes.
All of you know I’m a huge proponent of a salary cap system. That comes with a floor, increased revenue sharing, a cap and of course real accountability. Simple math says that adds close to 500 million to the pool of money players get even if it was just the weak wristed version the owners put forward with an 80 million dollar gap from 100 million to 180 million.
Make it more like other leagues that only have a spread of 20-30 million and they get even more.
That said, I’ve never believed that would come without pain. I’ve seen it in the NHL, NFL and NBA, and I don’t see any players complaining they aren’t making enough in those leagues.
I hate going back to politics, but let’s face facts, it’s hard to discuss labor vs owners without things going there. Watching people struggle to justify their political stances on unions while acknowledging the baseball union is being a bit unreasonable is one of my favorite pastimes. In any subject, when you paint yourself into a corner by pre choosing winners and losers, right or wrong, you tend to find yourself at the very least conflicted.
This isn’t the Autoworkers union here folks. We’re not talking about anyone being poor (well, once they actually fight through MiLB, which also needs dealt with). We’re talking about a league where some teams have local TV contracts worth half a Billion dollars, and some teams that have deals worth 50 million. Some teams that control 100% of parking revenue, some that have zero (you’re Buccos are one of those).
It would be like expecting Suzuki and Mercedes Benz to compete directly and believing all that separated them was Suzuki’s willingness to spend more money on workers, parts, advertising and every other facet of business. Thing is, they aren’t expected to compete. Suzuki doesn’t need to beat Mercedes head to head to make enough sales to have a nice business. In a sports league, that kinda doesn’t work does it? At some point Suzuki is expected to take on the big boys if we’re talking fandom as opposed to driving to work.
That said, guys like Bob Nutting don’t do everything they could do. He doesn’t spend as much as he should, and while he’s spending enough of the revenue sharing dollars to never have a successful grievance charge stick, there are things he could do to pump more money into the team.
For instance, while no owners use their personal wealth to acquire players, he could use some of his to acquire property and parking near the ballpark. It’s not like real estate investment is foreign to him.
Again, baseball has created an imbalanced mess, but some owners have done more to deal with it. I always say, hate Bob Nutting if you like, but hate him for the right reasons. Even the “fix” I just suggested would only make them maybe Milwaukee.
Bottom line, neither side wants to miss games, and I don’t see transformative change coming, with one caveat. The loudest proponents of a salary cap are the Yankees and Red Sox this time, and that more than any other singular fact should have the union thinking twice about pushing the envelope.
Expect more hyperbole before reason starts to creep in. In fact if you really want to know when progress is being made, listen for silence from both sides. It’s usually a sign they’re actually getting somewhere instead of trying to get the public to side with them.