MLB Lockout Day 90: "Disastrous," What Comes Next, CBT Numbers, Failed PR, Collateral Damage

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MLB Lockout Day 90: “Disastrous,” What Comes Next, CBT Numbers, Failed PR, Collateral Damage

Chicago Cubs

Been putting this one off all day. I’m just so frayed about this – sad and angry and helpless – that I don’t really even want to engage with my own emotions about MLB shutting itself down. Every time I try to crystalize my thoughts in a truly comprehensive way, I just wind up shaking my head and thinking about how bummed I am. About how much damage this is going to do long-term, and how EASY it is for everyone except the owners to see.

For all the grief Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred gets in relation to the lockout, the state of the game in general, and his own stewardship, he has offered the most concise and insightful take on what happens now.

“I see missing games as a disastrous outcome for this industry,” Manfred said three weeks ago when asked about what it would mean to miss regular season games as a result of the failure to reach a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.


It’s one of those words that we can use casually enough because it has such a simple definition: “Causing great damage.”

And Manfred was just so spot on in that choice of words. Major League Baseball, through its lockout and its delay and its miserly offers to the players and now its unilateral cancelling of games, is indeed causing great damage to the industry. I’m not even sure I’m shaking my head anymore. It might just be shaking of its own, damaged volition.

I do have a number of other things that I think are important to share here, so I’m just gonna fire them off below …

⇒ So what comes next in terms of the talks? Well, MLB has indicated that Thursday is earliest it would start negotiating again, and both sides have a duty to continue doing so (legally speaking). I think we’ll probably see some sessions through the weekend, because, by my calculation, more games will be cancelled if there isn’t a deal by Sunday night. But, also by my calculation, I don’t think the owners are going to be terribly concerned about cancelling the next chunk of games. It might not be another two weeks before they seriously start considering a reasonable offer.

⇒ Indeed, it’s likely that MLB will take the position that it is the players’ turn to make another counter offer, since MLB’s “best” offer came before Monday’s deadline:

⇒ Based on the terms we’ve seen, I could imagine the players coming down slightly on the pre-arbitration bonus pool and minimum salary requests, but the Competitive Balance Tax is probably the real fight. Always was. And it just doesn’t seem like it’s the players’ turn to make a big move on that one.

⇒ I assume this means $225M for the first tier of the CBT:

⇒ That is between the last known offers from the owners ($220M) and the players ($238M), but not the midpoint. The bigger questions might be: where are the second and third tiers set? What are the associated penalties beyond the tax, itself? What’s the escalation over the life of the deal? More than just that first year’s first tier number, all that stuff was a major issue, too. Over the five years of the deal, for example, the owners’ offer escalated the first tier to only $230 million (the players’ final year was up to $263 million, by contrast).

⇒ This version of events is sad:

“It got to be like 12:30[AM, after midnight on Monday] and the fine print of their CBT proposal was stuff we had never seen before,” Stripling said. “They were trying to sneak things through us, it was like they think we’re dumb baseball players and we get sleepy after midnight or something. It’s like that stupid football quote, they are who we thought they were. They did exactly what we thought they would do. They pushed us to a deadline that they imposed, and then they tried to sneak some shit past us at that deadline and we were ready for it. We’ve been ready for five years. And then they tried to flip it on us [Tuesday] in PR, saying that we’ve changed our tone and tried to make it look like it was our fault. That never happened.”

⇒ In other words, it seems like the plan for MLB was either to get a sweetheart deal in the wee hours, or try to make the public think the players suddenly changed their minds in the morning. The deal was never actually close. It was all still in service of the (likely) broader plan: either get a monster win of a CBA, or happily cancel games.

⇒ The PR play doesn’t seem to have worked, though, as players roundly spoke out today – from Jason Heyward and Willson Contreras – to Mike Trout. I mean, if you make Mike Trout mad in public, you’ve really done something:

⇒ Three exceptional articles at The Athletic on what has happened:

⇒ A final bit of sadness in all this: MLB’s decision doesn’t just hurt the fans, the players, and itself, it also hurts so many others who are part of the greater baseball ecosystem. The stadium workers who now lose games and pay. The vendors who lose limited opportunities to make money. The bars and restaurants around ballparks that lose customers. The small businesses that operate in connection to baseball. The support staff. The hotels. The media. And any other employees who might see opportunities or paychecks shrink. Who might be furloughed or laid off. The spiderweb extends out. The collateral damage is real. We saw it in 2020 when a global pandemic MADE this kind of thing happen. This year, it was just a choice. What a disastrous outcome for this industry.

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.