If you’ve been wondering how much longer MLB owners
must drag things out will continue negotiating before they claim they absolutely have no choice but to unilaterally impose a 50-ish game season, it sounds like there’s only a week left.
USA Today reports, via three MLB execs, that the unilateral option is coming next week if there’s no negotiated agreement before that:
There definitely will be a baseball season, but if the two sides don’t reach an agreement by next week, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred expected to implement shortened season without players' approval. https://t.co/dxJKI7Pypi
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) June 10, 2020
While the players responded very promptly to the owners’ latest barely-moved offer, and did so while dropping their total game request significantly, there are no indications that the owners’ side is eager to engage meaningfully in a negotiation. Every bit of reaction I’ve seen out there, predictably, is about how the owners feel the players’ offer was another ‘non-starter’ and things are going ‘nowhere’ and all that same old BS.
To me, that reaction is nonsensical in the context of a negotiation that does appear to be proceeding:
Owners' initial position was prorated for 50 games. Players asked for prorated at 114 games. Gap was 64 games.
Owners responded with offer that was effectively 57 games worth of prorated. Players now come down 25 games to 89 prorated. Gap is now 32 games.
But sure. "Nowhere." https://t.co/z06IAQvYK4
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) June 10, 2020
In a reasonable, forward-looking world, you’d think there’s a solution there in a 32-game gap. You’re talking about a 16-game midpoint that means only, what, $5 or so million more per team? How is that not worth just eating to get a GOOD deal done on positive footing when you consider the risks of an imposed, short season:
⇒ Much fewer games for the fans.
⇒ Much less money for the players.
⇒ Much less positive exposure for the sport.
⇒ Much more fan antipathy about the return.
⇒ Much more player hostility going forward.
⇒ Possibly fewer players actually participating.
⇒ Definitely fewer player-involved extra activities.
⇒ No expanded playoffs.
⇒ Likely even bigger fight about post-2021 CBA than already expected.
It feels like the only risk the owners are really apprising right now, other than the loss of a few more million bucks, is that they don’t want to “risk” letting the players “win” a negotiation. The owners are used to winning these moments. They have, increasingly, won every single negotiation since 1995. Even as “winning” sure feels like the wrong framing in this pandemic (let alone overall for your sport), I wonder … how far has the “winning” really gotten you? How far will it get you if it means shutting down the sport right now, and meaning huge swaths of paying fans leave you for good? When your fandom is already declining?
Can’t let the players win this one. OK. We’ll see if that winds up an epitaph on the sport when we look back in 20 years: “We lost the sport, but we always beat the players.”