In all 54 days of the lockout, today was easily the most important and productive. Which is really quite sad, both because it took nearly two months to get here, and also because today was not *THAT* eventful or positive.
In short, today featured some actual talk between the sides, and some modest movement in the negotiating positions (well, from the players, at least). More importantly, the sides are going to talk again tomorrow. That’s really as far as today goes, which is absolutely not much, but is basically like hitting .400 compared to what the rest of the lockout has looked like.
More context on what today looked like:
An MLB official called the dialogue today spirited. Meeting lasted close to two hours. Put another way: it was heated.
— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) January 24, 2022
At the risk of being Debbie Downer: Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves here. The meeting was contentious. There is a lot — a lot — left to work out before there’s a new labor deal. This still could take a while.
But the fact that it didn’t go backward when it could’ve? W.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 24, 2022
If, however, you are inclined to be negative, you could be afraid that no global proposal is coming because, instead, the owners simply plan to reject specific elements of the players' revised proposal out of hand. And their proposal will be: see what we said last time.
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) January 24, 2022
By cutting revenue sharing, Union hopes to reduce the incentive for small-market teams to not compete and collect money anyway.
— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) January 24, 2022
As for the contents of the players’ proposal, multiple reports indicate that the players agreed to take earlier free agency completely off the table, which is meaningful movement in my book. Yes, I understand that was always a HUGE ask from the players, but I also believe it was an understandable one, given the way the sport has changed relative to younger players and “middle class” free agents. The players also substantially reduced the amount that they were seeking to see removed from revenue-sharing. If you’ll recall, before the lockout, the owners said they would not even make a proposal to the players unless they first dropped three things: earlier free agency, changes to revenue-sharing, and earlier arbitration. So now, the players have dropped, like, one and a half of those three things. That’s movement on their part.
Per ESPN, the players are sticking to their request for arbitration after two years, a draft lottery that goes up to eight picks, and a sizable increase to the luxury tax cap. It’s been hoped that, heading into the players’ counteroffer, that they would clarify which issues were most important to them – kinda seems like they have? The owners now simply HAVE to move some on these items. Be reasonable!
As for the minimum salary, it seems like there will be some solid movement northward for those players however this shakes out. The players are still asking for a bigger bump than the owners are offering, but of all the issues getting batted back and forth, this one has started to feel like it’ll land somewhere appropriate.
Also, an interesting note from that ESPN article: “Dropping the request for age-based free agency … helped set the stage for [tomorrow’s] meeting.” In other words, the implication is that the owners would not continue talking this week unless the players dropped that particular request. What I’d like to hope is that the players, in turn, today conditioned dropping that request on the owners – just for an example – meeting the players’ request on one of their key items. That’s how you get real movement toward a deal: “we will change our stance on item X if you change your stance on item Y,” and you start slowly chipping things away until you can get close enough to a deal to start putting together a whole package.
So, on the whole, today was really encouraging. Tomorrow feels like another risk for a huge breakdown and a re-engaging of the silent treatment, but I do think everyone involved appreciates the timeline here. With upwards of two weeks of “offseason” necessary, and with at least three weeks of Spring Training necessary – and that’s pushing it! – a deal has to be completely finalized by early in the last week of February to ensure that no regular season games are lost or have to be rescheduled. That may feel like a long time from now still, but (1) there is still so much to be resolved, (2) the possibility of another multi-week breakdown exists, and (3) that’s just the BARE MINIMUM timeline. If you actually want to have a more normal Spring Training, then you’re talking about having to get a deal done in just the next week to ten days (that ain’t happening).
Just to confirm that the topic of lost games has now been broached:
Heard MLB owners gave mixed signals about timing of 2022 season. On the one hand, they say they’re hoping to reach a deal on time for a full season.
But in today’s session they also indicated they’re willing to lose games. That was a first for these talks.
— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) January 24, 2022
I wouldn’t freak too much about seeing that, though. If the owners had indicated today that they were absolutely unwilling to lose any games, well, then, it wouldn’t be much of a bargaining position. Similarly, the players have to present themselves as willing to lose games. That’s part of this process when you (the owners, in this case) choose to wait a month and a half to make a proposal precisely so you start pushing up against a deadline.
That is all today, of course everyone involved is going to suggest – especially to the other party – that they’re willing to lose games if that’s what it takes. It doesn’t mean games will be lost. Of course, it doesn’t mean games WON’T be lost, either …