"No Reason to Believe" the Regular Season Will Start on Time and Other Cubs Bullets

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“No Reason to Believe” the Regular Season Will Start on Time and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

The combined forces of the Super Bowl today and the owners’ CBA offer yesterday have combined to make it tough to get into much in these Bullets BESIDES the state of the lockout. It just feels like the only baseball thing I can even think about today. So these Bullets are gonna be more or less all about the situation brought on by yesterday’s offer …

•   As discussed yesterday in the immediate reaction stuff, MLB’s offer – remember, in the CBA context, “MLB” is just the collection of owners – moved on a number of important items, which is good, but moved VERY LITTLE on those items, which is not good. I said on Friday that by Saturday night, we would know with 85% certainty whether the regular season would begin on time, and I’m here to tell you that I’m now 85% certain it will not. Which sucks.

•   Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich underscore the point I’ve been making for weeks now: we can absolutely hope for some surprising big move toward conciliation and reasonableness by the owners, but yesterday’s offer was just another reminder that nothing in the last two years of evidence points toward it happening. There’s no good reason to expect Opening Day on March 31:

•   The luxury tax stuff is still what gets me the most. It was an issue that clearly needed to be IMPROVED for the players, as it has arguably been the primary driver of salary stagnation while revenues increased. Yet 73 days into the lockout, the owners are sticking to a version of their luxury tax plan that DRAMATICALLY INCREASES the penalties for going over the various tiers. Maybe that could play if the threshold levels were also rising dramatically, but they are BARELY BUMPED AT ALL! They don’t even keep up with revenue growth! It’s a double-whammy of awful, and it’s clear to me that some* of the owners went into these negotiations hoping they could turn the luxury tax from what it already was – a near salary cap – into something even more firm. It’s just a ridiculous overreach, and it’s the item that makes me the most frustrated about all of this. ESPECIALLY 73 DAYS INTO THE LOCKOUT.

•   *(Consider a problem the owners have on issues like the luxury tax and revenue-sharing, by the way: since 75% of the owners are needed to ratify a CBA, it takes only eight (small market) owners banding together to block major changes that are geared toward the players. It might be the case that 15+ teams are willing to improve the luxury tax situation dramatically … and the small-market clubs are fighting against it for fear of escalating price tags for the best players, and an inability for them to compete with threadbare payrolls and the ability to pocket revenue-sharing dollars. We probably don’t talk enough about the fights that are likely happening AMONG the owners on these issues. But it’s their job to get each other on board with these things, and Rob Manfred’s job to facilitate it.)

•   To me, this says the owners are inviting the players to decide who suffers more pain – the players or the owners – if games are lost:

•   Interesting that the fact leaked, but not the date. That suggests that neither side wants the date publicly known, which you could take as a sign that it isn’t about creating public pressure, just bargaining pressure. I’m a little surprised by that, given how much of the last couple years has been about waging the PR battle, but I will admit that this time around, there hasn’t been nearly as much public rhetoric and angry leaking and all that nastiness. (Mostly it’s just been delays and intransigence … )

•   My guess is MLB has thoughts on how they could re-schedule/make up about 10 days’ worth of games (i.e., if the deal doesn’t happen until March 10 or something, they might be able to re-schedule the March 31-April 9 games so as to keep a full 162), but that’s not a guarantee. It’s absolutely possible that many of the owners would be perfectly content to lose most of the April games, when attendance struggles for some anyway.

•   To that point, just more frustration:

•   I think both of these points are correct:

•   I guess one positive out of yesterday was that Manfred and MLB did not do what I expected them to do: make the weak offer, and then announce that the players didn’t accept it, so Spring Training has been delayed. Don’t get me wrong, Spring Training *has* now been delayed. But there apparently isn’t going to be a big announcement about it in advance of what would’ve been the start in three days.

•   Oh, I suppose one other positive – if you want to stretch – is that the words you hear from the MLBPA in reporting are “unimpressed” and “underwhelmed.” That’s better than the kinds of fierier expressions that could’ve been dropped.

•   I think it’s important to read about the offer from the perspective of MLB over at mlb.com, so you can at least see how they are framing the moves they’ve made. Yes, you can regard it skeptically, but it’s worth being fair enough to say, yes, there are SOME positive moves by MLB. For example, agreeing to limit the total number of times a player can be optioned to the minors in a season is definitely a player-friendly move. The proposed increase to minimum salaries is not terrible. Removing the draft pick cost for signing qualified free agents is good (and is actually an improvement in the luxury tax rules, since it was worse for luxury tax payors). Removing the recidivism penalties for teams that go over the luxury tax repeatedly is good, too. I don’t think that stuff makes up for the lack of meaningful improvement in the luxury tax or not enough improvement in payments to 0-3 players (much less the things the owners would be getting, like increased postseason, an international draft, and patches on uniforms). But it’s worth being fair enough to say there are some things in the offers that have been designed to be player-friendly.

•   It is still TBD when the players will respond, how they will respond, and when actual negotiations will take place. Best guess is that players respond in a few days with similarly small movements on a variety of issues.

•   Realistically there are about two and a half weeks for a deal to be COMPLETELY done in order to avoid Opening Day being bumped. Like I said at the top, there is no good reason at the moment to expect a deal gets done in that time.

•   Last chance to check out the best Super Bowl promos for today if you’re among those who want to bet on the game! (Thanks for indulging all the promos this week.)


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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.