It’s only fair that I follow this morning’s rather dour lockout update with a little more positivity this evening. Not that I’m getting my hopes up about any kind of reasonable timeline this time around. That ship has sailed, and I still don’t expect serious negotiations before February.
However, Bob Nightengale did offer something positive in his 2022 MLB predictions column. While he is sort of infamous on social media for his misses, I noticed how, in the summer of 2020, he consistently had some well-placed sources on the ownership side. So when it comes to that stuff, I find his reporting pretty credible.
As part of his prediction that the lockout would end by February 15 and no Spring Training games would be lost*, he writes this: “MLB currently is working on a new set of proposals that it plans to present to the MLBPA within the next two weeks.” What’s a little tricky is that it is sandwiched between two very clear prediction-type statements. But that one doesn’t read like a prediction? In other words, I think it was a bit of an awkward way to say he is making the predictions in part because of the two-week thing.
If true, that means some kind of core economic offer from the owners would come by January 21, much earlier than the feared February-ish time frame. I’m not sure that leaves enough time to get a deal done by February 1 (which would be ideal to allow for two weeks of “offseason” and then a normal Spring Training), but it is conceivable that it would be enough time for Nightengale’s prediction of no lost Spring Training games to prove correct.
Even still, the last few years have shown that offers from the owners on core economic issues tend to be really underwhelming, and with the players standing as firm as ever, it’s pretty hard to see it being a situation where the negotiations go smoothly. You’d hope by this point, the owners would start from a place that isn’t so extreme (there is already a good baseline out there for negotiations!). That’s both because of the timeline, and also because the last couple CBAs have been such clear “wins” for them. I’m not sure it’s good for the sport *OR* the owners’ long-term interest to try to beat up on the players again and risk damage to the regular season.
So, I don’t know. I guess it would be great if the owner offer came within two weeks, but that “great” is still pretty relative given all the silence to date. I worry that the actual negotiation part is going to take weeks and weeks, with lots of loud foot stomping and some period where one side or the other says, “We’re done talking!,” and then we have to wait out another period of time of more silence. Just feels like the whole thing is going to take more than a month.
… which is why wasting the last 40 days was absolutely maddening. Ope, I’m back to being negative again. Sorry.
*(Note that, if the lockout actually ended on February 15, there’s just no chance you could have Spring Training games on February 26. Just 10 days to finish the offseason, players report, players are evaluated, COVID protocols, physicals done, pre-game training needs, etc. Even for fake baseball games, I just don’t see that being enough. If a deal is not done by that first week of February, Spring Training Games will be impacted.)