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OC Register: Alexander: A baseball labor agreement? We should have known better


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In the end, it was false hope.

Those devoted baseball followers who were monitoring the situation on Twitter on Monday night, as negotiators from management and the Players’ Association toiled until 2:30 a.m. ET, went to bed with the impression that a settlement wasn’t that far away and a new collective bargaining agreement could enable the season to open on time March 31.

Silly us.

In retrospect, after another management-mandated deadline passed without a deal Tuesday afternoon, this was more of the same old kabuki. And when Rob Manfred stepped to the podium shortly after that deadline – incredibly flashing an ear-to-ear grin at one point – it confirmed my suspicions. Ownership was less concerned about making a deal than making sure the public blamed the players.

So the first two scheduled series of the regular season are now toast, which the owners interpret as salaries saved. Spring training remains kaput, save for minor leaguers who aren’t on teams’ 40-man rosters. The ancillary businesses in Florida and Arizona that benefit from the influx of fans in March are going to be hurting, as are the vendors and ushers and the rest of the stadium workers who often depend on those second or third jobs to make ends meet once the regular season begins.

As for the rest of us? The NBA and NHL will still be playing, and there are books to read and plenty of streaming shows to watch. To many, it will be easy to forget baseball, and do the owners who have taken the wheel of this bus understand they’re speeding the sport toward total irrelevancy?

As usual, what Manfred didn’t say in his Q&A was more eloquent than what he did say.

He insisted he feels the fans’ pain, and pay no attention to that grin. He claimed the owners “offered compromise after compromise and hung in past the deadline.” He mischaracterized his side’s proposal regarding the competitive balance tax threshold. And he claimed the “last five years have been very difficult years from a revenue perspective for the industry given the pandemic.”

Two years, maybe. The pandemic hit everyone hard in 2020, but the game had record high industry revenues of $10.7 billion in 2019. And Manfred wasn’t about to bring up the earnings statement released by the Atlanta Braves’ parent company, Liberty Media, which reported that the champs had revenues of $568 million and an effective profit of $111 million in 2021. Rough five years, eh?

Maybe rough for the players. The median salary has dropped from $1.65 million to $1.15 million from 2015 to ’21, and the average salary has dropped 6.4% since 2017 from $4.45 million to $4.17 million.

Manfred insisted that “we want to bargain and we want an agreement with the Players’ Association as quickly as possible.”

Sure. This is why management instituted a lockout on Dec. 2 and then waited 43 days before making a proposal. It’s why, when the sides got together over the last nine days in Florida, nothing substantive took place until Sunday and Monday.

And when the MLBPA held its news conference later Tuesday afternoon, executive director Tony Clark said management was dragging its feet for far more than six weeks.

“In a world where you are looking to make changes, make adjustments, make improvements based on what it is you’re seeing, you understand that you need as much time as possible to work through those things,” he said. “It’s why we started the process when we did in April. It’s why we made the core economic proposals that we did in the first part of May.

“It’s why we remained available, whether on Zoom or as the pandemic afforded us the opportunity to meet in person. We made ourselves available then. It’s why we sequestered ourselves in a hotel in Dallas with the hope of working toward an agreement. It’s why we stood ready for six weeks after the lockout on December 1st, ready to have a discussion.

“It is remarkably interesting against the backdrop of the things that needed to be worked through to find ourselves on February 28th, over the course of the last week in West Palm Beach, working through the issues that quite honestly needed to be, and could have been, and should have been discussed in more depth much earlier than they were.”

The perception from this vantage point? Management had no intention of dealing with labor’s concerns unless and until it absolutely had to. And now we’ve gone beyond that point.

The unilateral cancellation of games has created still another negotiating impediment. The owners insist they won’t pay the players for games not played. MLBPA negotiator Bruce Meyer made it clear later in the day during his side’s presser that “as a feature of any deal for us to come back, (we) would be asking for compensation and/or to have those games rescheduled.”

Manfred offered some word salad about how it was impossible to reschedule canceled games because of the current format of interleague play. He evidently forgot that when the 2001 schedule was halted for a week because of 9/11, those games were tacked on to the end of the schedule, and all but three teams played a full 162. (Also, Meyer noted, management wanted to cut the schedule to 154 games in 2021 because of the pandemic but was willing to pay the players for 162.)

But it’s more useful to read between the lines because odds are we’re not looking at just one week of canceled games but a bunch.

Management isn’t just negotiating in bad faith with the players, but with the public.

And when said public turns away from the game for good in large numbers, maybe the rich guys who picked this fight will finally understand they got it spectacularly, disastrously wrong.

jalexander@scng.com

@Jim_Alexander on Twitter

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44 minutes ago, AngelsLakersFan said:

Can't say the long term outlook for MLB is all that good right now. Come next CBA the owners might actually be telling the truth when they say they are hurting financially.

It’s part of the reason I thought they’d figure something out.  It seems so ridiculous and short sighted to do this.  Anyway.  Not my problem. 

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They are ensuring that my generation will be the last for whom baseball is our primary sport. The other major sports use time clocks, and action is much more compact. My generation grew up with a slower pace of life with fewer diversions, and with no expectation of constant entertainment. One of the beauties of the game was its pace and its nuances. We looked forward to Saturday, and the only live game that we would see all week. 

Times change and things evolve. The NFL supplanted MLB as the national pastime long ago. So what do MLB owners do? Lop off scores of minor league teams, depriving new generations of potential fans the chance to see the game played live in their own communities. They have also failed to learn the lessons of 1994, the year that effectively killed baseball in Montreal, and showed millions that it was possible to go on without baseball. 

In this season in which I was anxiously waiting to see if my city will get a major league baseball team, the unthinkable has happened. This lifelong fan has now become indifferent, having seen the game that I grew up loving destroy itself over the almighty dollar. The real losers are us, and we are the only ones not mentioned in the discussion. That speaks volumes.

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5 minutes ago, Vegas Halo Fan said:

The real losers are us, and we are the only ones not mentioned in the discussion. That speaks volumes.

Of course, but there are people here who will excoriate you when you say things like that. Everyone knows it's all about each side getting whatever they can no matter how long the bickering goes on. This is America, man! Everyone goes for the gold here! Who the hell cares about you and me? 

Fans?? They're a necessary evil.

/sarc

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16 minutes ago, fan_since79 said:

Of course, but there are people here who will excoriate you when you say things like that. Everyone knows it's all about each side getting whatever they can no matter how long the bickering goes on. This is America, man! Everyone goes for the gold here! Who the hell cares about you and me? 

Fans?? They're a necessary evil.

/sarc

My father was not an overly demonstrative man. One thing that we bonded over was baseball. I remember sitting beside his bed countless evenings as he recounted stories of the heroes of his youth. My earliest memory of baseball was him taking me to a spring training game in April 1963 to see his beloved Cardinals, and his all time favorite player, Stan Musial. The game was on a weekday, and he considered the opportunity important enough that he kept me out of school that day so that I could share the moment with him. I will take that memory to my grave. I regret that others will never have such memories.

Edited by Vegas Halo Fan
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On 3/1/2022 at 7:03 PM, AngelsWin.com said:

The median salary has dropped from $1.65 million to $1.15 million from 2015 to ’21, and the average salary has dropped 6.4% since 2017 from $4.45 million to $4.17 million.

I'm getting the feeling that this drop has everything to do with high salaried players aging out more than a drop in wages considering we've seen record breaking contracts signed over the last 5 years. 

Let's play a game of median incomes. Players have, according to the numbers above, a median income 37 times that of the US workforce. Their average salary is 134 times more than the US median income. 

When you look at it from a 6 month salary, since they only get paid during the 162 games series, that works out to about $200k per paycheck for the median and close to $700k per paycheck for the average player income. Even the MLB bottom dwelling minimum get about $100k per paycheck. 

baseball-a-changing-landscape.png

baseball-a-changing-landscape.png

This looks like a corporation going out of business rather than one that shouldn't care about burning public opinion bridges over money. 

 

 

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26 minutes ago, Blarg said:

I'm getting the feeling that this drop has everything to do with high salaried players aging out more than a drop in wages considering we've seen record breaking contracts signed over the last 5 years. 

Let's play a game of median incomes. Players have, according to the numbers above, a median income 37 times that of the US workforce. Their average salary is 134 times more than the US median income. 

When you look at it from a 6 month salary, since they only get paid during the 162 games series, that works out to about $200k per paycheck for the median and close to $700k per paycheck for the average player income. Even the MLB bottom dwelling minimum get about $100k per paycheck. 

baseball-a-changing-landscape.png

baseball-a-changing-landscape.png

This looks like a corporation going out of business rather than one that shouldn't care about burning public opinion bridges over money. 

 

 

It does show decline in attendance and viewing of world series but it does not show value of MLB teams having been going up. 

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7 hours ago, Blarg said:

I'm getting the feeling that this drop has everything to do with high salaried players aging out more than a drop in wages considering we've seen record breaking contracts signed over the last 5 years. 

Let's play a game of median incomes. Players have, according to the numbers above, a median income 37 times that of the US workforce. Their average salary is 134 times more than the US median income. 

When you look at it from a 6 month salary, since they only get paid during the 162 games series, that works out to about $200k per paycheck for the median and close to $700k per paycheck for the average player income. Even the MLB bottom dwelling minimum get about $100k per paycheck. 

baseball-a-changing-landscape.png

baseball-a-changing-landscape.png

This looks like a corporation going out of business rather than one that shouldn't care about burning public opinion bridges over money. 

 

 

Baseball decision makers have miscalculated somehow as a group, and I’m especially pissed with the owners, not because they’re greedy since we mostly all are and who knows who any of us would be like if we were that wealthy.  But this is not the time for playing this kind of game, given other events in the world.  I think they failed to give enough weight to what else is happening, this could be a huge period to gain fans and increase market share because things are kind of depressing in the real world.  Ukraine, the economy, the environment, COVID- stuff like that.  We need distractions more than ever.

As a lifelong baseball fan I’m sure I’ll calm down and watch some games, go in person a couple times.  But my fandom has been eroding without this anyway, the lockout will accelerate that process.

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46 minutes ago, Revad said:

Baseball decision makers have miscalculated somehow as a group, and I’m especially pissed with the owners, not because they’re greedy since we mostly all are and who knows who any of us would be like if we were that wealthy.  But this is not the time for playing this kind of game, given other events in the world.  I think they failed to give enough weight to what else is happening, this could be a huge period to gain fans and increase market share because things are kind of depressing in the real world.  Ukraine, the economy, the environment, COVID- stuff like that.  We need distractions more than ever.

As a lifelong baseball fan I’m sure I’ll calm down and watch some games, go in person a couple times.  But my fandom has been eroding without this anyway, the lockout will accelerate that process.

I totally agree

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