MLB Lockout Day 12: Pessimism Grows, The 1995 Season as Instructive, Anti-Tanking Plan, More

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MLB Lockout Day 12: Pessimism Grows, The 1995 Season as Instructive, Anti-Tanking Plan, More

Chicago Cubs

Once the lockout started, it’s not like I didn’t know it was going to last into next year. I mean, I said it every time the topic came up – my dream was serious discussions beginning again by mid-January, with a deal done before February. Yet when I check the calendar for these updates, it’s still so damn discouraging. We’ve been through 12 days of lockout now, and there hasn’t even been so much as a whisper of ANY conversations between the sides. It’s clear the owners were all too happy to start the lockout, and then just sit. And since the players have little reason to come back to the table after they reportedly made the last two offers …

⇒ The pessimism will grow. For example, from Kevin Goldstein in his chat today at FanGraphs, where he admits he’s now expecting that some games next season will be lost: “I’m starting to think we’ll miss some games. Not a huge chunk, but I don’t think either side is going to get down to brass tacks until there is real pressure, and think we could end up playing 154 or something …. Just in talking to people on both sides of the (very deep) trench, it feels like both sides are far more dug in than I thought.”

⇒ It certainly does feel plausible that, at a minimum, the owners aren’t going to start serious discussions again until they see the creeping pinch of lost Spring Training gates, though even that might not be enough. I’ve gotta believe they don’t want a second season in three years with lost games, though – in the current TV environment, no team is going to want to start having to figure out givebacks again on their broadcast deals. The RSN business is tenuous as it is.

⇒ The other thing you can mentally book is that the transaction period, whenever it opens back up, will be (1) very short, (2) very wild, and (3) overlap with Spring Training in a way that creates ramp-up problems for some players. Again, we more or less knew all of this already – there’s a reason so many guys wanted to sign before the lockout began – but it just sucks every time I think about it. We already had this kind of bullshit to deal with two years ago, and that was because of a deadline pandemic. This is entirely self-inflicted because nobody is thinking about the long-term good of the game or the fans (mostly, that onus should fall on the owners- it’s right there in the name).

⇒ As John Shea writes, the 1995 season – after the players went on strike in August 1994 and no deal was reached to save the rest of that season – might be the unfortunate template:

⇒ We would all be very unhappy if 2022 parallels 1995. Back then, wielding the threat of replacement players to open the 1995 season, the owners got shut down in court for unfair labor practices, and the strike ended with the players ultimately having to operate under the old deal until a new one could be reached. Because no deal had been reached in a timely manner, though, the season was shrunk to 144 games, and Spring Training was cut to just three weeks. Attendance fell, on average, 20% that year. Again: you’d think no one would want to see anything like that again, particularly at such a tenuous time given the pandemic and the RSN issues, but I’m just a baseball fan pecking away on the internet. (You want to get nice and depressed by either remembering, or learning about, the 1994-95 strike, give it the Wikipedia tour.)

⇒ While we’re talking about the damage done by the last work stoppage and then by the 2020 pandemic shortened season, Dayn Perry wonders what we can learn about the current stoppage by looking back to those 2020 talks. Of particular note, it’s not like the sides actually struck a deal for the season last year. They tried, but never actually got to a deal – remember how publicly ugly it was? Instead, there was a preliminary agreement from March (remember what we thought the pandemic was going to be back in March of 2020?), which allowed the season to proceed as long as the players were paid prorated salary. Since no actual deal was struck last summer, Commissioner Manfred simply decreed that, fine, based on the March agreement, we’ll have a shortened season. That led to a $500 million grievance which is still pending. Perry’s point? The last time these two sides were feeling tremendous pressure to get a highly-contentious deal done … they failed.

⇒ Meanwhile, one of the players on the main MLBPA labor committee, Andrew Miller, talks about keeping players on the same page during this time:

⇒ To end on something a little lighter, here’s Jayson Stark’s idea – a variation on something we’ve heard before – to really combat tanking: completely reverse the draft order for teams that don’t make the playoffs. You’re the first team to miss out on the last playoff spot? That stinks, but here’s the first overall pick instead. It’s kinda compelling, insofar as it would definitely make all teams want to win as many games as possible each year, rather than having years where you’re definitely OK with being terrible. Would it be enough to get those marginal teams to SPEND a lot more money each year? Maybe not. But it would take away the bonus of “spend almost nothing, get a top pick that is worth a ton of long-term money.” It’s an interesting idea, at least. Think of the excitement down the stretch as your middling team, which was otherwise long out of a playoff spot, has a chance to climb up the draft board? It’s like the reverse standings watch, but, you know, better! There are some risks here to small-market teams that could be at a perpetual disadvantage, but revenue-sharing exists to help bridge that gap – some clubs simply decide not to spend that money on player payroll.

⇒ The biggest concern as I see it? What about the Trade Deadline fun? You’d still have some wheeling and dealing, sure, but it would have to be a much more perfect situation for the teams involved. Maybe that’s not as much of a concern for folks who don’t run a charity Blogathon each year at the Trade Deadline, though …

⇒ (To be sure, in a world where 12 or 14 teams make the postseason, there are SOME situations where a team might prefer to get pick 1-1 over sneaking into a single Wild Card Game or something. But I’m not so sure that would be as common as folks might fear – getting into the postseason is huge for an organization, to say nothing of deep postseason runs – and the few times that comes up over a multi-year period might be worth it overall.)

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.