MLB Labor Negotiations Still On Doomsday Road

Jupiter, Florida – Doomsday Tuesday.

Two, Twenty Two, Twenty Ew.

It wasn’t a good day for Major League Baseball fans, as a small sample of them still loved the game so much, despite the current garbage fire across North America, that they stood outside Roger Dean’s Chevrolet stadium for hours, excited. Get out of these labor negotiations and chant the names of the players upon their arrival and departure.

Francisco Lindor of the Mets and Paul Goldschmidt of the Cardinals were among those who waved back without getting close enough for autographs or close-up photos, and this symbolizes where things stand: Neither side moves much, with time running out – the teams announced a February 28 deadline – To sign a new basic agreement in time to start the season, as scheduled, on March 31.

On Tuesday, teams were so frustrated with the players’ recent counteroffer that they suggested, for the second time this month, the deployment of a third-party federal broker to speed up progress. And for the second time this month, the players passed. Then they will be back on Wednesday afternoon. A bona fide breakthrough would require one of these two categories to sufficiently bend toward a realistic deal. So far, neither of them has come close to this flexibility.

They only met for an hour on Tuesday, then got together with sides for about an hour. The day concluded with a smaller break session, which lasted about 35 minutes, where MLB Players Association President Tony Clark (who signed the autographs before the meeting) and Max Scherzer, Mets assistant, players and deputy commissioner Dan Halim and Dick Monfort, CEO of The Rockies, spoke on behalf of owners.

Smiling Francisco Lindor chats with new Mets teammate Max Scherzer ahead of today's baseball business negotiations that went nowhere again.
Smiling Francisco Lindor chats with new Mets teammate Max Scherzer ahead of today’s baseball business negotiations that went nowhere again.

Ownership’s frustration stems from what you see as a recurring pattern in players’ confrontation: they give up in one area while demanding more from another. On Tuesday, that offer came in the form of a reduction to their request for the “Super Two” arbitration category — they now want the arbitration process to be available to 75 percent of those with two to three years of service, a drop from 80 percent — and an increase in the limit. The minimum salary is $30,000 annually from 2022 to $775,000 until 2026.

The players, who have also modified their lottery proposal from placing the top eight picks in play to the top seven (teams of four), see it as a net gain for the owners, and it’s a less expensive bid than their previous proposal. While landlords see players fall back on something they don’t have — an expired collective bargaining agreement gave arbitration to only 22 percent of the class with 2-3 years service — they seek a higher minimum wage, and consider it a process moving backwards.

The CEO of the MLB Players Association talks (right) with Jason Castro of the Houston Astros prior to business negotiations.
MLB Players Association CEO Tony Clark (R) spoke with Jason Castro of the Houston Astros prior to business negotiations.

It all sounds like a thumbs-up, and massive time wasted, until a real floor is covered by the competitive equilibrium (or luxury) tax, which players assert is a priority. They last changed their CBT offer over two months ago in Dallas, when the two sides met just before Rob Manfred officially announced the shutdown. At the time, they dropped their 2022 figure from $248 million to $245 million, going to $273 million by 2026. The clubs last tackled this issue on February 12, when they raised their back hats a bit to a peak of $222 million in 2026, with Tougher penalties than the expired deal for those who exceed it.

If players get the 2026 to $245 million figure and keep the old penalties, that would be a huge advance. Will they go in that direction as a sign of resilience to the owners? Would they do this without a corresponding increase in another component?

Would anyone, ever, go up and be the biggest party, instead of playing the one? If no one does, the next Tuesday on the calendar will bring with it some serious torment.


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