Lockout, Day One: Manfred and Clark Speak, the Proposals MLB Won’t Even Discuss, Timelines, More

We made it, friends. We are through one day of the lockout. We can totally do this for another two months, right?

As expected, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and MLBPA Chief Tony Clark met with the media today, and the sets of comments are gathered here, here, here, and here, among other places. The notes:

⇒ Manfred defended the lockout as more or less the only way to apply “economic leverage” to create enough pressure to get an agreement done. He’s not necessarily ENTIRELY wrong about that, but I still haven’t seen anything in the reporting to indicate that the owners were actually trying to engage in reasonable discussion to come to a deal by December 1. Instead, looking back, it only looks more and more confirmed what we have thought since August: a lockout was always coming.

⇒ Clark’s response to the lockout and the argument that it was necessary is what you’d expect: “From the outset, it seems as if the league has been more interested in the appearance of bargaining than bargaining itself. The league was not required to declare a lockout. The decision to impose a lockout was a conscious decision made by the league. And contrary to the statement that imposing a lockout would be helpful in bringing negotiations to a conclusion, players consider it unnecessary and provocative. The lockout won’t pressure or intimidate players into a deal that they don’t believe is fair.”

⇒ The test will be whether things actually do move more quickly from here, as that is what Manfred has implied the lockout will help accomplish. I will believe it when I see negotiations take place this month. I’m not expecting any until mid-January at the earliest. Prove me wrong.

⇒ The way things wrapped yesterday was that MLB offered to make a counterproposal to the latest from the players ONLY if the players agreed first to drop their requests related to earlier free agency and arbitration, a higher luxury tax threshold, and changes to revenue-sharing between teams. In other words: most of the key things players want to see changed. So it’s not really all that difficult to see why the players didn’t proceed further from there. At present, MLB isn’t even willing to discuss any of that stuff.

⇒ The players’ free agency request, by the way, is reportedly extremely reasonable:

⇒ That’s really not that crazy. And the owners reportedly wouldn’t even have a conversation if that was a part of the discussion. Here’s how Manfred responded to that idea: “We already have teams in smaller markets that struggle to compete. Shortening the period of time that they control players makes it even harder for them to compete. It’s also bad for fans in those markets. The most negative reaction we have is when a player leaves via free agency …. Making it available earlier, we don’t see that as a positive.”

⇒ I’ve seen it mentioned multiple places that an agreement would have be completed by “early to mid-March” in order for a full season to be played, though I’m sure there’s a flexible range in there (because, if there is enough desperation, schedules can be changed). Even that would lead to a shortened Spring Training, though, and another season where we’re not sure if guys were fully stretched out, we’ll wonder about performance and health, etc. So … no. From where I sit, a deal needs to be done by the first week of February so that a normal-ish Spring Training can take place after a period of time for free agents to sign.

⇒ To that end, though: even though I fully expect the sides to take this thing right up to the “deadline,” I’ll keep dreaming about a lockout that lasts only a month or so. I don’t WANT to have this all shut down for two+ months …

⇒ In these final negotiations before the lockout, no one was focused on the many needed rules changes, by the way. Only the economic stuff.

⇒ There is not currently an expectation that there will be furloughs in front offices or at MLB, but that would be an additional layer of suck, if employees – after the layoffs and furloughs from last year – had to take unpaid time off because of the lockout.

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Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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