It’s not unusual to see iPhone pictures from Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla., filling Twitter feeds in late February. In fact, it happens every (normal) year, as the Cardinals and Marlins work out in their complexes and prepare for spring training games to start.
This year, though? No photos of players in uniforms, just photos of baseball folks wearing various degrees of business casual, walking to and from meetings as the owners and players try meet on a regular basis this week — finally — to try to end the lockout that’s in its third month and has already scuttled a few weeks’ worth of spring training games.
More important than the poorly framed, sometimes blurry photos of the primary negotiators coming from the dedicated reporters on the ground in Jupiter are the reports of what’s happening inside during the meetings. Because the sides are meeting every day this week — at least, that’s what is supposed to happen — we thought we’d take those notes and reports and try to add a little context and clarity, if you’re just now tuning in to the labor dispute.
Included in MLBPA’s offer today:
• Instead of 80 percent of players w/2-3 yrs of service being eligible for arbitration, now 75 percent.
• Dropped from 8 picks in the amateur draft lottery 7.
• Some increases in minimum salary.
There was no new proposal on CBT.
— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) February 22, 2022
News: A day after MLB upped its offer of teams in the draft lottery from three to four, the MLBPA dropped its offer from eight to seven.
Any step toward a draft lottery is a step in the right direction — and seems it’ll happen in some way, shape or form — but the truth is this: For a draft lottery to have any tangible impact on the way a team operates/spends/competes, to be anything other than tanking window dressing, there have to be more than three or four teams involved. Three teams does nothing. Four teams does nothing. The Orioles and Diamondbacks both lost 110 games last year, and the Rangers (102 losses) and Pirates (101) were not far behind. Those four teams would still be guaranteed top-four picks in the next year’s MLB Draft under that format.
The goal has to be to discourage tanking. The goal has to be to make teams attempt to be competitive. And if the only movement in the draft order is potentially falling from No. 1 to 2 or from 2 to 3? That’s just not it. The system, as currently constructed, heaps great rewards on teams that are awful — save money by slashing payroll AND get the best players in the draft? Nah. That’s being abused because, far too often, winning isn’t part of the equation.
We’re not going to get to this point with this CBA negotiation, but the best way to discourage tanking (and encourage teams fielding competitive squads) would be to actually punish the teams that finish with the most losses in a season by greatly lowering their chances of getting the No. 1 overall pick.
I wrote about this in November, if you want to read about a setup that would actually accomplish the primary goal, which is to encourage teams to be competitive and punish those teams that have no interest in winning.
MLB owners felt players took a step backward with minimum salary
This is exactly the kind of thing that’s frustrating about this whole process. For the owners, it’s not about making the sport a fair and equitable place for both sides. It’s about winning a negotiation and squeezing as much money as possible.
The current minimum salary for MLB players is $570,500. Players, in their proposal on Tuesday, maintained their minimum salary proposal for 2022 at $775,000, and in subsequent years, that number bumps up by $30,000. In their previous proposal, the subsequent bumps were $25,000.
The MLBPA did this because it lowered its request of players in the two- to three-year range being eligible for arbitration from 80 percent to 75 percent.
This $5,000 increase in minimums is seen as a problem by MLB. Let’s take a look at minimum salaries for the NBA, NFL and NHL.
But, yeah, a $5,000 increase is problematic because MLB feels the players “went backward.” That’s not just one reporter, by the way. That was from multiple reporters, which means it’s the unofficial word put out by a source.
MLB again suggested a mediator, but the union wasn’t biting
Look at their actions, and it’s pretty clear the MLB owners are more interested in appearing to look like they want to come to a resolution with the MLBPA than they are interested in actually hammering out a resolution with the MLBPA. Truth is, the owners are quite happy with the status quo, as they should be. Team revenues have skyrocketed over the past decade, and not only has the CBT not even come close to keeping up with those increased funds, but the average annual player salaries have actually gone down the past four seasons.
This is a good visual representation of MLB estimated revenues via Forbes, the average Opening Day Payroll via the AP, and the CBT first tier. Graph pulled together by The Athletic. It tells the story: revenues vastly outpacing CBT and player salaries. pic.twitter.com/dxIwMZ4JeH
— Maury Brown (@BizballMaury) February 4, 2022
So, yeah. Of course they’re stalling, extending the lockout in the hopes that the players cave.
Again, look at the actions. In implementing the lockout on Dec. 2, Manfred claimed the move was to create urgency, and then MLB didn’t offer a proposal to the union for 43 days. When the owners promised to reply to the MLBPA’s proposal on Feb. 2 within two days, instead of coming back with an actual proposal, the owners tried to offer federal third-party mediation on Feb. 4.
The union rejected that and the owners didn’t offer another actual proposal until Feb. 12.
It’s the same song and dance. The only thing the owners really want to change — and, again, the economics of baseball have tilted wildly in their favor over the past decade or so — is expanding the playoffs, and that, it seems, is something for which they’re willing to sacrifice games.