MLB Lockout Day 98, Part Two: What in the World Just Happened, and What Happens Now? (UPDATES: They're Still Talking)

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MLB Lockout Day 98, Part Two: What in the World Just Happened, and What Happens Now? (UPDATES: They’re Still Talking)

Chicago Cubs

I really don’t feel like doing the emotional response tonight. I’m exhausted by caring so deeply about this league and being thanked with a kick in the nuts. You’ll probably notice a lack of all caps and exclamations and overwrought words. I don’t have it.

I think there was a path to a deal today. I think any thinking observer could see that. But we aren’t in that room, we don’t have the same skin in it, and we also don’t have the same relationship these two sides have. So for whatever reason, sensibility goes out the window at some level in these talks and you keep getting unthinkable outcomes.

So anyway. Here’s where things stand.

By all reports, the sides got very close on the financial issues. Close enough that, if those were the only issues, a deal should’ve gotten done today. The hold up was the international draft and the Qualifying Offer, with MLB indicating that it would not entertain additional negotiations until the players decided one of three paths ((1) accept the international draft and ditch the QO, (2) reject the international draft and keep the QO, or (3) ditch the QO and agree to a plan to figure out how to do the international draft by this fall, and if that fails, the owners get to re-open the CBA after 2024). The players instead offered an idea that the QO goes away for a year and if the sides can’t agree on an international draft by then, the QO comes back. It was a reasonable idea, but the owners stuck to their ultimatum and cancelled more games.

I feel like three things can be true at once:

⇒ We are only in this predicament because the owners chose, very intentionally, to delay this process for months.

⇒ It was a crummy thing to make this ultimatum the deciding factor on cancelling more games, and it’s suspicious that MLB wouldn’t even consider the players’ response.

⇒ The players could have just picked a lane, crummy as MLB’s forced choice was, and said fine keep the QO and no international draft and let’s finish this deal.

⇒ It is absolutely ridiculous that the international draft/qualifying offer pairing is what blew this all up.

But it did. So the first week of games that got axed now stay axed, and another week joins them. That means the fight about backpay and service time will now join the fight about everything else in the CBA, making it all the more difficult from here to get a deal done.

Per MLB’s announcement, the earliest Opening Day could be at this point is April 14, which is – not coincidentally – the day before Jackie Robinson Day, and the 75th anniversary of his debut. You better believe that will be used as a pressure point, as ugly as that is.

With new big fights teed up, I am back to thinking about the RSN rebate issue, which would comfortably allow for MLB to cancel another week of games before they might feel any additional pain. But if the backpay and service time fight gets big enough – or if the animosity about today is strong enough – I think the court process is certainly still possible, as is an Opening Day in June. There’s just so much cutting off noses to spite the faces going on. I’d be more shocked if we hadn’t seen this for weeks.

Going forward, I would tentatively expect the next week to look more or less identical to the last two weeks: nothing for a few days, very light meetings at the end of the week or over the weekend, and another deadline created by MLB at the start of next week for another wave of cancelled games. But, again, it’s going to feel like a much softer deadline for both sides if 162 games and full pay/service time are now off the table. That’s how bad it was for today to come and pass without a deal.

It’s probably good that the sides did get as close as they did on the core economic stuff, but with the international draft and Qualifying Offer taking on outsized importance, I wonder at what point you start to see internal disagreements among the players for whom those aren’t major issues (or for whom they are REALLY major issues). Because we’ve been cynical all along, you also wonder to what extent that was an intentional push by the owners, trying to create those rifts.

Also, with things falling apart today, you wonder what the impact is on the playoff proposal. And the rules changes. And the draft lottery. And the service time measures. All were contentious issues in their own right, resolved primarily because they were wrapped up in these bigger offers. It’s not hard to see that stuff getting mucked up now, too.

There is a deal to be had here, and it just never had to be this way. Not today. Not last week. Not the months that preceded it. The vast majority of that still lays at the feet of the owners. I am frustrated that when it looked like they’d finally come around to a reasonable offer that a deal still fell through, but I don’t want to go too far in saying today is the players’ fault or 50/50 or whatever. It’s not really about that for me. At least not tonight. I’m just in that same state of sad and disillusioned, and I’d like this to be over. Maybe this time it can be sorted out before the next deadline. But just as it was this week, there’s no good reason to expect it until it actually happens at this point.

I’m gonna go to sleep, reset mentally, and then just see what the day has in store for me. This, as you know, effing sucks.

INSTANT UPDATE: Ugh. This just came out as I was publishing, and I’m sorry to even put it here. I don’t want to react to it, and I don’t want YOU to react to it. But the job is the job:

Expect nothing to come of it, other than maybe teeing things up for the weekend.

UPDATE (8:53pm ET): This squares with my “expect nothing” statement:

If correct, that means the only hope for tonight is to maybe get past this particular issue so that the the focus can shift back to the still-lots-to-work-on other stuff sooner rather than later. That MIGHT make a deal before the NEXT “deadline” a possibility (i.e., next Monday or Tuesday). But it does nothing to resolve the new fights about backpay and service time.

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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.