Even with all the disappointment following each new report of meetings between Major League Baseball and the players union, Saturday brought a whole new level of pessimism. The players made a comprehensive proposal that included significant movement from their previous asks on the topics of service time, CBT thresholds, and revenue sharing. It was not accepted warmly.
Players offered to come down 2M on the CBT thresholds (which started at 245M) each year from 2023 to 2025. MLB countered by offering to raise the CBT threshold in year two of the agreement from 214M to 215M.
— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) February 26, 2022
The owners responded with an offer to increase the second year of their previous CBT threshold of $214 million by a whopping $1 million and added that they would not consider any union proposal that doesn’t include 14 playoff teams. For the sake of context in case you’ve not been following all that closely, the league wanted to maintain a $214 million threshold in each of the first two years of the deal, then move to $216 million in Year 3, $218 million in Year 4, and $222 in the final year.
Moving by a mere $1 million — just 0.47% of the total — is the very definition of an unserious offer and it’s indicative of the kind of “negotiating” the owners have engaged in this whole time. They have refused to budge on certain topics, willfully pushing their sport to the brink of regular-season cancelations after their milquetoast commissioner said that would be a disastrous outcome.
Players were reportedly infuriated by the league’s response, to the point that they may walk away from the bargaining table altogether if an agreement is not reached by Monday. That’s when the stalemate becomes much more real and probably protracted, since canceling games means not paying players for a full season. The union has made it clear that it will not agree to expanded playoffs in that situation and the league has said full pay is not an option if fewer than 162 games are scheduled.
Oh, and how about the notion that the length of the season and payment mechanisms are collectively bargained? If MLB attempts to cancel games unilaterally, it opens up a whole ‘nother can of worms.
Throw in the hard line on having 14 teams in the postseason and you’ve got a sticky wicket from which extrication may be impossible. Unless you ask Jon Heyman, that is. The Arby’s-loving talking head tweeted Saturday evening that “one person involved said he believes the sides are now ‘within striking distance,'” which is pretty wild when you look at how little the owners have even attempted to work out to this point.
Contradictory to all the negativity/ upset surrounding the MLB/players talks, one person involved said he believes the sides are now “within striking distance” and a deal could be done be tomorrow night. Luxury tax remains the sticky issue but a 225/230M threshold should work.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) February 27, 2022
But as hard as this is to believe, it might make sense when you consider the scheming nature of the same owners who’ve repeatedly claimed they are operating non-profits for the sake of the fans. Because billionaires would totally line up to buy money pits and former team execs would definitely join various cities’ efforts to land expansion teams if they believed massive profits and asset appreciation weren’t inevitable.
The release of the Atlanta Braves’ financials exposed the big lie, though it’s not like owners can quickly set their egos aside and admit to their chicanery just like that. If there is any hope for a deal getting done, it lies in the league finally moving from its trenches and crossing into no man’s land with what will certainly be an air of superiority and feigned graciousness.
The owners want to feel like a much stronger opponent toying with a competitor in an arm-wrestling competition, sipping scotch and enjoying a snack before eventually pulling to victory. Only if they feel they’ve sufficiently ground the players down will they see fit to start the season with an offer finally worthy of consideration, and it’s possible that time will come in the next two days.
If that’s the case, it’s because this is what the owners planned the whole time. And that will mean they willfully cost you, the fan, weeks of spring training and a whole lot of time. Let’s hope that’s all they end up costing us, because maintaining their hard line on several topics will mean we’re looking at Memorial Day or later before baseball returns.