It would’ve been a little more aesthetically pleasing to wait for the next update until Day 50, but I don’t know for sure that we’ll receive word of any significant update tomorrow.
As you recall, the MLB owners finally made a proposal late last week after nearly a month and a half of silence post-lockout. The offer was, expectedly, soft. The hope has been that it would be enough to get the players to counter, but it was a proposal that would require SIGNIFICANT movement from the owners to actually get to an acceptable state. Given that, and given the fact that the owners took so long to make that first offer, I’ll hardly fault the players if they take a little time to respond. My fingers are crossed for a core economic response by the end of this week, but I’m sure there’s a whole lot of internal debating to be done about which issues to prioritize most aggressively in a response (luxury tax levels and penalties? draft changes? arbitration? free agency?).
The process might be frustrating to fans, but in this instance, I’m finding it difficult to gripe about a six+ day period before the players counter. There were 43 days that preceded that with the ball in the owners’ court.
Speaking of which, Ken Rosenthal dug into the lockout today at The Athletic, and I think it’s worth a read if you have the time and the subscription:
The pressure is mounting. MLB cannot afford to lose games this season. Column: https://t.co/nBYH8lbXf4
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 19, 2022
Among many, many points made by Rosenthal, he rightly points out that fans will be deeply unforgiving if any games are lost this year, particularly on the heels of the last two years. Entertainment consumption behaviors were already transitioning in a substantial way before the pandemic accelerated that process *and* laid bare the ugly relationship at the heart of Major League Baseball. It was a deeply frustrating time for fans. Missing games now, during this CBA negotiation process? It will bring all of that simmering animosity back and multiply it.
The lengthy delay in even making a (soft) proposal indicates the owners remain content to push this thing right up to the bring, hoping that the players will not want to stomach more lost paychecks after what happened in 2020. After all, some of the decisions made in this CBA could impact owners for decades through future CBAs. For the players, most have a much, much shorter window to earn what they can.
A paragraph from Rosenthal that really struck me in this regard:
This is not, at the moment, a “both sides” discussion. The owners need to acknowledge that the game’s economic landscape has tilted too far in their direction, and that the sport’s competitive integrity has been compromised by teams refusing to invest in their products. Commissioner Rob Manfred initiated the lockout, then was rightly pilloried for calling it “defensive” and saying it was intended to “jumpstart” the negotiations, when in reality 43 days would pass before the league presented the union with an offer on core economic issues.
That’s a better-articulated version of a point I’ve been trying to make for years now: although the owners sought to “win” each of the last couple CBA negotiations (and succeeded), doing so now may wind up hurting the sport – and their own pocketbooks – in the long run. The pendulum has swung sufficiently far that it’s now a problem for everyone, not just the players.
Even if you don’t believe the owners will bend to some of the players’ demands out of the goodness of their hearts, you can make a cogent argument that doing so could make everything more profitable for them over those previously-referenced decades. The players provide the entertainment product – without that pool of players performing and growing and sustaining (and the races being compelling!), the entertainment value of the sport suffers. Don’t try to take 55% of a pie you risk shrinking. Take 50%, and then grow the pie.
Back to the timeline. Even before his article dropped, Rosenthal said on his latest podcast episode that he expects the negotiations to get hotter in about two weeks, because that’s when the real crunch kicks in. He wouldn’t characterize himself as optimistic, though. But he does feel like the owner offer and the player response, whenever it comes, will just be part of a largely ineffective dance (until the pressure of the season arrives).
It remains impossible for me to see a functional second offseason and Spring Training period taking less than a solid five weeks. So a deal has to be done by mid-February in order for the regular season not to be impacted – either delayed, or games cancelled. (And that timeline includes Spring Training, obviously, being significantly impacted. That part we kinda accepted a while ago.)
For a deal to come together by mid-February, I would think the players would have to counter within the next few days, and then the owners – I’m just counting on them to be slower at this point – would have to come back within a couple weeks having moved considerably from the offer we saw last week. Like Rosenthal, I wouldn’t characterize myself as optimistic that the season won’t be impacted at this point.
We’ll see if the players come back with an offer this week.