Last night, for the first time during the current set of Collective Bargaining Negotiations – indeed, for probably the first time since the 2002 negotiations – the word “lockout” popped up.
To be sure, I have no interest in cheap drama or overreaching scares, so I think it’s important to say clearly up front, as I did last night, that I’m deeply skeptical that the current labor negotiations will actually reach a lockout stage (or, more specifically, a lockout that actually impacts games on the field). The sport is awash in money, the issues about which the sides are fighting seem relatively narrow, and there is so much time before Spring Training even rolls around.
That said, with a CBA expiration just a week away, and a report that the owners are at least considering the possibility of a lockout if that week passes without a new deal in place, there are issues here to discuss.
To that end, and partly in response to Ken Rosenthal’s report about the possibility of a lockout, some bullets for your consideration …
- Craig Calcaterra writes that, among the reasons to be skeptical about a lockout actually taking place is the fact that the reported sticking point – an international draft – doesn’t seem to be the kind of thing over which either side is going to be willing to blow things up. The tone of the negotiations seems far off from past years (1994, 2002) when there was serious strife, and things are too good for all sides to risk a PR crisis. All good points. I’d add only the possibility that there are larger, deeper-seeded financial issues (various revenue sharing formulas being the big, and little-discussed area, because of its complicated relationship to player salaries) driving the schism between the sides. We don’t know for sure that there isn’t a major issue there, but, since it hasn’t been reported, I should also say that we don’t specifically have a reason to fear there’s a major issue there.
- Speaking of which, Richard Justice mentions that revenue sharing does remain an issue to be resolved, especially because there are many large market teams that don’t like the idea of sharing their revenue with smaller market teams who do not use that revenue to field a better team (and, presumably, the players would like more of that money to be spent at the big league level on payroll, too).
- Keith Law puts it very plainly, saying that the lockout talk is “bogus propaganda from MLB.”
- As Maury Brown writes at Fortune, there is too much money flowing into the game for the sides to risk an interruption right now.
- With the Thanksgiving holiday arriving tomorrow, I wonder if we hear more about this later today, or if it won’t be until the weekend. That’s not say the sides won’t work right through the holiday if necessary, but if they’re close, and just rattling some sabers about a final issue or two, then we might not get an update until final bits are being put into place after everyone eats some turkey.
- A bonus side conversation, relevant to CBA discussions in direct and tangential ways, prompted by this clever idea from Len Kasper:
If MLB wants to eliminate "tanking" take 20 non-playoff teams & reverse draft order in 1st round. Incentive to win as many games as you can
— Len Kasper (@LenKasper) November 23, 2016
- There’s a lot to love about that idea, from the competitiveness it would spur among teams that are otherwise just collecting revenue-sharing money to the added excitement for the fans of middling teams in September. Among the issues folks raised on Twitter in my mentions: tanking is not actually a problem in the sport, so this just creates new problems to “solve” a non-issue; teams would be disincentivized to bring up young players for experience in September; teams that are genuinely trying to win would be punished further for being bad (and could then fall into a cycle of self-sustaining struggles). On the question of whether tanking is an issue at all, I’ll simply refer for now to discussions we’ve had in the past (because, well, the Cubs’ deep rebuilding strategy certainly had – and benefited from – some elements that resembled what observers might describe as “tanking”).