I’m not necessarily going to do this kind of lockout check-in every day, as yesterday’s absence indicated. I will just be updating the lockout status periodically when there are things I find interesting or important.
⇒ No word yet on the next set of talks, and until I hear otherwise, I’m not going to expect it until after the flip of the calendar. Do yourself a favor and don’t seek out the Vegas odds on the season starting on time; they are probably just designed to bait certain types with overwhelming odds, but let’s be clear, the odds are overwhelmingly against the season starting on time. That seems a bit silly to me on December 4 – again, I think it’s probably more bait than anything else – but it’s a reminder that it’s not like everyone expects things to be smooth sailing in advance of Spring Training. And thus I certainly don’t expect any positive progress this month.
⇒ In the flurry of everything this past week, it might’ve been easy to miss a drilled-down version of what exactly held up talks at the zero hour. Jeff Passan did a good job going through, point by point, the major areas of disagreement. The biggest issues are MLB owners’ unwillingness to even consider free agency at anything shy of six years’ service time, also to even consider extra ways for players to “earn” service time, also to even consider arbitration for all players at two years, and also to give a reasonable bump to the luxury tax cap. There are also disagreements about how much to change the draft, how much to expand the playoffs, and things like that, but those seem to be less major hold-ups.
⇒ One other sneaky major issue that probably doesn’t get as much attention because it’s a little more opaque? Revenue-sharing among the clubs. You may or may not know, one major way the league tries to keep parity among its teams in such different markets is by way of a (very complex) system that shares some of the revenue from the big-market teams to the small-market teams. Historically – the players union has argued, anyway – those smaller-market teams never actually use all of that shared revenue on players (instead, sometimes just pocketing it for profits), so they want less revenue shared from big markets to small markets, so that big markets can go ahead and spend that money on players. This change would be good for the Cubs, and I suspect a few other big-market teams would be on board, too. It’s an issue where there is likely to be fighting not only between the owners and the players, but also among the owners. It’s why the revenue-sharing system is so complex in the first place – it’s not like the big-market clubs WANT to fork over dollars to other teams, though they presumably understand that at some level their own teams would not be as valuable if the rest of the league couldn’t operate successfully.
⇒ Not currently on the table? All the potential rules changes. As detailed here by Jayson Stark, the owners don’t want to allow possible rules changes to be used as leverage against them in negotiations over economic issues, so they are being kept off the table entirely for now. Generally, I understand (and endorse!) the players trying to take every edge they can, given the way the last two CBAs have gone for them. That said, rules changes are about preserving and growing the sport, which you could argue doesn’t disproportionately benefit one side or the other – it just makes sure baseball continues to flourish. I’m not sure saying OK to the pitch clock should be “traded” for some direct economic benefit to the players. There’s also the rub that the Commissioner can unilaterally implement any rules changes he wants after one-year notice to the players. So, again, while I get why the players would want to use anything they could for leverage, I don’t know how useful this angle is. Just seems like the fans are the ones who could get hurt in this part of the scrape.
⇒ So basically, you can expect that the rules stuff will either get addressed after a deal is completed, or, more likely, a some future point thereafter. Like, maybe not even until next offseason or later. Which would sucks, but it would give the league another year to adjust and study the rules changes in the minor leagues.
⇒ The players are absolutely going to use social media and connectivity to fans to their advantage in these talks, as they should. So when the league took down all the images of the players because of the lockout (they are not allowed to use players’ images and likenesses without an agreement in place), the players turned it into a meme:
Players around baseball are changing their profile pics to the blank images you now see on the MLB sites (MLB can't use player images/likenesses during the lockout). A visual signal of solidarity, and a reminder that the players got pretty good at this stuff last summer. https://t.co/2hStC3C1Aw
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) December 2, 2021
It’s amazing to see players around the league change their avi in solidarity. MLB can take away our image but never our LIKENESS!
— Trevor Williams (@MeLlamoTrevor) December 2, 2021
⇒ I hope we see more jokes:
Since MLB chose to lock us out, i’m not able to work with our amazing team Physical Therapists who have been leading my post surgery care/progression. Now that I’m in charge of my own PT- what should my first order of business be? I’m thinking I’m done with this boot. It can go😎
— Jameson Taillon (@JTaillon50) December 2, 2021