Late on Thursday evening as the Midwest was being pounded by ice and snow, word came out that despite telling the players association on Tuesday that they would return with a new offer, the owners of Major League Baseball changed their mind and decided that they actually weren’t going to come back with a new offer. Instead, as first reported by Jeff Passan of ESPN, MLB has decided to ask for federal mediation between the two sides.

There are a few things to discuss about this. First is the big note that the mediation is just that – mediation. The mediator, if accepted by the players, can not implement anything. The mediator simply serves as a third party to try to be an unbiased person in the meetings, perhaps offer suggestions and to try and get the two sides moving towards one another.

While the owners are allowed to ask for said mediation, the players association does not have to accept. And according to multiple sources that seems unlikely to happen. As former Reds pitcher Alex Wood said – how can you ask for mediation when you haven’t even tried to negotiate?

Why would the owners ask for a mediator? Well, there seems to be one very large and prevailing idea, and one smaller theory that this particular writer hopes to be true but doesn’t have much faith that it actually is.

The prevailing idea is actually pretty simple: The owners want the public to begin to blame the players for what is happening. If the owners can point to the players turning down a mediator they can and probably will be able to trick much of the casual population of fans into believing that it’s the players who weren’t and aren’t actually negotiating here. The casual fan isn’t following this online and listening to the actual negotiations – they just seem the very largest of talking points and this will be a big one.

What the asking for mediation also can do is, as Eugene Freedman notes, speeding up the process for Major League Baseball to declare that the parties are at an impasse, which would then open up a few more options.

To anyone that’s been paying attention it seems very clear who is at fault for the lack of progress. It’s the ownership side who has basically made almost no attempt to negotiate in good faith. They even opened up the negotiations by trying to tell the players that under no circumstances would they even consider altering earlier free agency or earlier arbitration. The very few proposals that have been made since they locked out the players – a move, by the way, that was in no way necessary and could be lifted by the owners at any point – have been laughable. One offer included a reward of a draft pick for a team if they didn’t purposefully hold a player back and manipulate their service time AND that player also turned out to be a stud (by winning the ROY Award, or finishing in the top 3 of the Cy Young or MVP race in one of their first three seasons).

As for the other theory that has been floated out there as to why MLB would ask for a federal mediator to step in…. it could be that there is a portion of owners who simply aren’t willing to make concessions that need to be made.

How often have you heard things like “Scott Boras won’t let Player XYZ sign an extension!”? Probably a lot. And every time I hear it I roll my eyes because Boras, and every other agent works for the player and not the other way around. Dan Halem and Rob Manfred work for the owners. They are negotiating based around what the owners have told them that they want to happen, not what Halem and Manfred specifically want to happen. It’s possible that they understand what they are proposing simply isn’t going to get it done, but their bosses (the owners) also don’t care because they just aren’t going to give in any further.

Is it likely that Halem and Manfred realize this and that is why they asked for a mediator to try and get some of the owners to move in the right direction and understand that they are being unreasonable? No, it’s not likely. But it is possible that is what is happening.

One final thing to add here that popped up as I was writing this was a graph from The Athletic that shows payroll, the luxury tax threshold, and estimated revenue over the last 20 years. Revenue growth is far outpacing payroll and the luxury tax growth.

76 Responses

  1. AllTheHype

    Bottom line is. MLBPA wants drastic changes. Owners want status quo and are willing to wait it out. Neither is willing to budge.

    In 1995, after cancelling the remainder of the 1994 season, courts intervened and ordered continuation based on the prior CBA, with the sides ordered to continue negotiating. Sure seems like something like that could happen again, but likely not soon and not until some portion of the season is cancelled.

    • Greg

      GREED!!! On part of the players and the owners! I love the game but I’m fed up! I don’t care if they play the season at all! Maybe it will teach both of them a lesson, but I doubt it! They don’t appreciate the fans who pay for all this crap, and get nothing! We the fans can’t even watch our home town teams on TV anymore because the exorbitant cost the streaming sports media providers costs! As I said in the beginning, GREED!!! on the part of everyone connected with the game! Let them be hung there to dry, as they are killing the game I love ! I can’t stand by and watch this anymore! Good bye baseball, it’s been good to know you!

      • Ken

        My thoughts exactly, Greg. I’ve been an avid baseball guy for over 60 years. I worked on the inside as a Minor League executive, then on the outside for 14 years as a sports writer covering the Double-A Eastern League. My level of anguish has risen gradually over the years. GREED, that famous and all-consuming human trait, has worn the game to a frazzle. Computer geeks have added to the misery, fomenting a rise of the exciting strikeouts and walks that have reduced the game to a 9-inning yawnfest. I’ve paid dearly to watch the Reds from CT over the years and I’ve about had it. I’ll watch local games where I can reach down and touch the grass, smoke a cigar and pay nothing. I’ll not watch all the best players gravitate to the rich teams and listen to the Players Union’s selfish demands.

  2. old-school

    So this delays ST and if nothing is finalized in the next 3 weeks, the regular season will be delayed

    Id be surprised if baseball is played at GABP prior to May 15

  3. CFD3000

    I can’t articulate how frustrating I find this. I am, admittedly a baseball romantic. James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams, Crash Davis, Bart Giamatti level fan. But the idea that MLB owners feel no obligation to be stewards of the game is embarrassing. Of course they say they care deeply about the history and future of the game of baseball, but their actions tell us that is simply not true. They care about money, plain and simple. So they are very busy cutting off their noses to spite their collective faces.

    “With great power comes great responsibility.” Man up, recognize that almost unimaginable wealth is already more than enough, and honor that responsibility. The irony is that a healthy MLB with at least a little mutual respect between owners and players (and fans) and a growing fan base will line the owners’ pockets far more than trying to hold on to every last dollar a slowly dying sport can generate this year. Short sighted and embarrassing. Makes me wonder how they all got so rich in the first place. So… let’s get this done and play some baseball!

    End rant.

    • Greenfield Red

      Agree except the Bart Giamatti part. I’m no fan of his.

      • CFD3000

        Greenfield – I’m guessing that’s in response to Giamatti’s role in the sad saga of Pete Rose, yes? If so I can certainly respect your negative take on Giamatti. Fair enough. But here I refer only to his attitude about baseball in general and the history and splendor of the game. Unlike recent commissioners Selig and Manfred, Giamatti clearly loved the game and it’s history. I can’t say that same thing with confidence about Rob Manfred or any of this current batch of owners. Which is especially sad when my Reds fan experience includes so many here at RLN who so clearly do.

  4. Mark Moore

    Very sad, but not unexpected news. And thanks, Doug, for pointing out that the ownership may just be trying to sway the court of casual public opinion with the mediator move. They knew full well it wasn’t going to fly and, I think, Alex Wood’s response is spot-on.

    And so we wait … but the damage continues to the overall product. From where I sit, much like is the case with medical procedure/drug pricing voodoo, the lack of anything close to “open financial books” is a big deal. I’m not an attorney or a tax law guy, but that smells more like anti-trust to me than just privately run businesses.

    My pessimistic over/under of July 4 is looking “better” with each announcement. That’s just plain sad. Pretty sure a trip to the Queen City isn’t in the 2022 plans for me (unless something drastically changes). Bring on the MiLB season!!

  5. Jimbo44CN

    I dont know. I am more inclined to blame the players. Listening to Harol Robbins this morning on the MLB network, he said that what they were negotiating (the players) and holding out for was not something that would stop him from playing baseball. I tend to agree. Yes, it’s hard to get to the majors, but once there your min salary is $550000 ? That seems to be an awful lot of money to me, and with some of these contracts signed lately, OMG, how much more do you need. Just my opinion.

    • Jimbo44CN

      Sorry, meant Harold Reynolds. Dont know where the Robbins came from.

      • greenmtred

        Jimbo44CN: It’s true that the players make a lot of money by my standard. But as Doug points out, the owners make a great deal more, and their share of the pot is increasing. And not one of them could hit .200. MLB players, even the mediocre ones, possess rare talent, and their careers are generally very short: They make a a lot of money, but they don’t make it for long.

    • Doug Gray

      You’re telling me that on MLB NETWORK they were spouting the situation as the players were being unreasonable?

      As for how much more you need? Why aren’t we asking that of the owners? Again – look at the growth of revenue versus the growth of salary from the article. The owners side keeps on outgrowing the players side.

      Also of note from the AP: There were 1670 players who appeared in MLB last year. 1,145 earned under $1M, 771 below $500,000, and 241 under $100,000.

      • Jimbo44CN

        No, I just told you what Harold Reynolds said, and that was that He would have not stopped playing for what they are asking for. And I agree with him. I am not overly for the owners, but the players get to play a game and get paid a lot to do that.

      • Doug Gray

        They play a game that generates Eleven Billion Dollars in revenue a year. They deserve more than what they are getting right now, especially since revenue is expected to go up from here based on more lucrative television contracts.

      • Old-school

        I dont have skin in the game but labeling all the players the same or all the owners the same seems too simple. Which players are getting screwed? It’s certainly not Bryce Harper or Joey Votto or Eugenio Suarez or Moose?
        It’s certainly not Amir Garrett or other players headed to arbitration where performance doesn’t matter and your raise triples or quadruples inflation even if you were awful. How ‘bout Nick Senzel or Tejay Antone- injured young players who are getting paid despite underperformance due to repeated injuries.

        If it’s the unproven player who is getting screwed because its only 615K and not 715k….thats a hard sell as well.

        If its the 32 year old who isn’t getting that pay day anymore based on what he did at 28…well….thats just tough.

        What employee gets paid millions guaranteed despite injury or lack of performance? As long as the players demand guaranteed pay regardless of performance or health…and $715k salaries for entry level employees who havent ever proven themselves at the mLB level, the owners are going to win the other non guaranteed areas-especially after not being able to sell full stadium tickets from April 2020 till summer 2021.

      • JayTheRed

        You know what that graph tells me. The Owners need to stop whining about being poor or that they lost money from Covid. Boo Hoo! Honestly people who I have been talking to are sick of both the Owners and the players and are just getting turned off from baseball entirely. I am starting to get there myself.

        If you want to watch entertaining baseball Watch Minor league baseball it honestly is awesome and so many of the teams go out there for their fans big time.

        Both sides are at fault for this mess Owners are hoarding their profits. Players are asking for a big increase in benefits and pay. 100,000 doesn’t sound like much but that’s a lot of money when you look at how many players there are. Baseball has a big problem, and more and more people are getting turned away from it.

    • Droslovinia

      I tend to disagree with your line of reasoning. It’s not that players, like other big-name entertainers, make a lot of money when successful, so much as the idea that owners are depending on people not knowing the difference between a million and a billion. They’re both making more than most of us might make in our lifetimes, but after you accept that and understand that it’s a matter of scale, it’s still very wealthy employers doing everything they can to put one over on their employees.

  6. Randy in Chatt

    Can some baseball scholar out there sum up the main points of contention (again) that is holding these negotiations up? Simple bullet points will suffice. I just want to understand what is going on.

    • Doug Gray

      The owners want to keep larger and larger shares of revenue and the players are asking for their fair share and the owners just aren’t having it. The end.

      • MBS

        That’s a loaded response. The owners want to keep their fair share, and the players are asking for their fair share. If you ask the owners they’d also say they just want what’s fair. So, if we can take the emotion out of the argument, the real question is what is a fair share? I have zero idea the answer to that question. It seems neither do the players or owners don’t have the answer either. Bringing in a mediator actually seems like the best solution to me. If both sides get their feathers ruffled, and find a compromise, then maybe we’ll get to watch baseball.

      • Doug Gray

        50% of real baseball revenue would be a good start. But we know that what’s being reported isn’t the real baseball-related revenue. And even still the players aren’t even getting 50% of THAT.

      • Hotto4Votto

        50/50 split like the NBA does would be a great start at trying to be fair.

      • Doug Gray

        Sure. But that’s only a starter if MLB begins counting revenues made off of real estate deals they only got because of the stadium deal they got, including revenue from the RSN ownership stakes they got by taking less yearly cash for the broadcast rights to baseball games, the $2B sale of MLBAM, etc as “baseball revenue” instead of trying to claim that none of that is “baseball revenue” – which is what they do right now.

      • JayTheRed

        In most jobs in the world. If you asked for your fair share you would be either laughed at or walked out of the building.

        The company I work for has made increased sales of over 135% over the past few years. You know how much the regular employee saw of that. and extra 60 cent raise.

        A business simply doesn’t give you more money because they are making more money or if they do it’s a tiny fraction of what they made.

      • greenmtred

        You’re right, Jay. Enter the Great Resignation. People who believe in free markets and market-driven economics should understand that the players demands are simply a market force. They have a compelling point: The product is worthless without them.

      • Luke J

        Doug, name another, non-sport industry where employees make 50% of revenue. The reality is, the owners make the investment and take the risk in a business. I don’t want to hear this “players deserve their fair share” crap. They already get their fair share. If they don’t like it, start their own league. See how far that goes. That’s business. The fact of the matter is baseball was fine. And the owners are simply asking to leave it alone. Their business model was working. The players want drastic changes and people like you lap it up as though the owners are under some obligation to make major changes. No way. It’s the players not negotiating in good faith. They are saying if you won’t agree to discuss drastic changes you aren’t being fair? Bull.

      • Luke J

        Greenmetrd, your point is shortsighted. The players aren’t as valuable as you think. The players need the league more than the league needs them. Plain and simple. So free market economics actually cuts against your point.

      • Vada

        Doug, if the real issue is billionaires vs millionaires then the outcome might appear obvious. History repeatedly has shown that “he who holds the purse strings typically wins.” Yet, if the MLB players and minor league players decide on giving up baseball for a second career then Team owners will be stuck with a DEAD company and unmarketable business. Shareholders will quickly become the decision makers who end up bargaining with the MLBPA. It’s called “playing chicken” and it works. The best scenario is to sit the year out with ZERO negotiating. Then wait to see WHO “cries uncle” first. I think that’s a no-brainer.

      • greenmtred

        Luke: How many people do you think would show up a GABP to watch the owners own their teams? Baseball could be played without the current players, yes, but not without players. and the risk is not only to the owners: they don’t have to fear an already short career being cut even shorter by injury. Nor, realistically, do they have worry much about a younger and cheaper version of themselves taking their jobs. My understanding is that few owners depend upon baseball revenue. Baseball teams, like most other businesses, requires both ownership and people to actually produce the product.

  7. BK

    The chart in the link stops at 2019, pre-pandemic. As much as I’ve read at the national level, I haven’t seen a single baseball journalist talk about the effect that the losses baseball took in 2020 on the Owners and their willingness to make concessions. I think the reported $3B in collective losses is a significant factor to Owners.

    I really didn’t follow the strike very closely in 1995 to understand what the issues were. But as I read comments on what most fans would like to see happen: it’s usually some combination of a fixed portion of revenues set aside for the players, a cap and floor on salaries–this was in line with what the players went on strike to avoid and it’s essentially the model adopted in NHL, NFL and NBA.

    I like most of MLBPA’s stated goals: more competition (less tanking) and more salary to players earlier in their careers. That said, did anyone expect the Owners to give the players a full year back for free agency, allow salary arbitration a full year earlier, significantly raise the CBT, decreased revenue sharing among teams, and increase minimum salaries? MLBPA has asked for all of these, together!

  8. Bred

    Without any reservations I am on the players side.
    1. The minor league contraction stole baseball from local communities, fans, minor league owners, employees, and other related jobs. From rookie league to AAA fans had supported theses teams for generations. Why? Money grab.
    2. The reprehensible treatment of minor league players. Most of the never sniff a cup of coffee in the bigs. Why? Money grab.
    3. Service time manipulation of players thought to be stars. Why? Money grab.
    4. Tanking. I find the current pretend outrage of NFL pundits and owners laughable as they are shocked teams might “tank” to get a better draft choice as it is a standard practice in baseball. Baseball honors teams that do it correctly as well run. Why? Money grab.
    5. Teams don’t even try to win to save money. They aren’t tanking just banking. Why? Money Grab.
    6. The players make the game not the owners.
    7. There are 162 games. The cost to attend a game for a family is too high. The cost of a nose bleed seat at a WS game is not $5000 like the SB but just wait.
    8. I get owners need to make a profit, but they have been banking piles of cash while the players cut has been shrinking.
    I am always for labor in contract disputes because if you look at history, we workers have always carried the weight without enough perks.

    • Stock

      You say you are on the players side but really point out nothing that is being addressed by the players.

      Items 1 and 2. Great. Minor league players and fans are being screwed in your opinion. But the player’s proposals does nothing to change this. So no side is right in your opinion.

      Item 3. Service time manipulation. The owners address this and are providing a solution. The players ignore it. So you say you are on the players side but prefer the owners proposal? I am confused.

      Item 4 and 5. Tanking. The owners address this and are providing a solution. The players ignore it. So you say you are on the players side but prefer the owners proposal? I am confused.

      Item 6. It is a given. Both sides would agree.

      Item 7. Cost to attend a game. If the players get what they want then your cost to attend a game will go up even more. Again you say you are on the players side but prefer the owners proposal? I am confused.

      Item 8. As BK shrewdly pointed out the graph stops in 2019. Revenues in 2021 did not match the 2019 revenues but 2021 salaries were probably greater thant 2019 salaries.

      • Doug Gray

        Items 1 and 2 already happened. They can’t bring them back. It’s over. Item 3…. the owners absolutely did not address it. They offered themselves a reward for only the absolute best case outcomes that their not breaking the rules leads to an MVP/Cy Young caliber player and if that absolute best case scenario does happen, they also get a draft pick. That’s not addressing it, that’s rewarding yourself for not breaking the rules.

        Tanking solution was provided? On what planet are you reading that the owners provided a solution? Their solution was to make the top 3 picks in the draft open to a draft lottery. Teams don’t tank for the draft pick. They tank because revenue sharing allows them to not even try to win and still make money. The draft pick is just a bonus.

        Ticket price is not related to player salaries. It’s related to how much you, the fan, is willing to pay for the ticket. Prices don’t go down when teams cut payroll.

        Revenue’s haven’t been reported for 2021, so it’s tough to sit here and say a whole lot about it, but TV revenue and ancillary revenue continues to go up thanks to newer contracts with networks.

      • Stock

        Are you saying minor league player are making a fair salary now? I know you don’t believe that. And the players did nothing to address this. So my response was correct.

        Holding someone back to gain another year is not against the rules as Kris Bryant found out. It is not honoring the intent I agree. And giving teams a reward for not manipulating playing time is addressing the situation. Maybe the carrot is very small but it is bigger than that provided by the MLBPA.

        I agree with your response on tanking but again to my knowledge the players did not address this either.

      • Doug Gray

        The MLB Players literally can’t change the salary for the minor leaguers.

        And yes, holding someone back to gain another year IS against the rules. The problem is being able to prove that the team did it because of that versus “they weren’t ready” where pretty much the only way to prove that is to literally have it documented.

        Batting .000, Stock.

      • Stock

        Isn’t there a correlation between how much a team is willing to spend and how much a fan will pay to go to the game?

        A view of the correlation of ticket prices to player salaries using the Reds as an example.

        Starting in 2008:

        Great prospect class of 2008 shows up and payroll drops in 2009. So does the average cost of a ticket.

        By 2011 this class enters Arbitration and payroll goes up. So do ticket prices.

        Reds payroll goes up from 2011 – 2015 and ticket prices go up from 2011 – 2015.

        Reds payroll tops out in 2015 and so do Ticket prices. From 2016-2019 both payroll and ticket prices go down.

        there seems to be more of a correlation here than you make it out to be.

      • BK

        In fairness, the Arbitrator that ruled against Kris Bryant’s grievance specifically stated he was not ruling on whether or not holding a player back to gain an additional year of service time was allowed under the CBA. Both sides have actually offered “incentives” (which seem goofy to me for what it’s worth). The fact that both are addressing it, tells me they agree the current CBA is unclear on the issue.

  9. Jimbo44CN

    I have been to Reds games recently and the cost of a game is not bad. You really pay more for parking almost. Still a very reasonable bit of entertainment this day and age. Also, if those minor league teams werent making money, then that is just what happens. Baseball is just not as popular as it used to be, just a fact.

  10. Stock

    1. Salary Cap
    Owners: Gradually increase the cap to 220 million by 2026.
    Players: Bump it to $245 immediately.

    My take. This would again erode the competitive balance MLB already struggles with.

    2. Arbitration

    Owners: Pay for play arbitration. If you perform you get more.
    Players: No proposed change

    Not a major difference. I do like that you have to earn your raise and not get a raise just because though.

    3. Free Agency
    Owners: age 29.5. Extra draft picks to teams that do not manipulate service time.
    Players: Minimum of (A) 5 years of service and age 29.5 or (B) 6 years of service. But service time added for appearing in All Star game, MVP award votes, Cy Young award votes, ROY…

    My take is owners would no longer hold players back with their proposal. Players proposal basically eliminates a year of control if a player performs. This hurts small market teams. I say keep it as is but do like the draft picks to be included for the players benefit.

    4. Post season:
    Owners: 14 teams
    Players: 12 teams

    Players would prefer 14 too but want something in exchange for this.

    5. Draft:
    Owners: Draft lottery for top 3 picks
    Players: Draft lottery with market size component

    I obviously side with the players here. But this is just a carrot because the MLBPA have prove they could care less about minor league players.

    6. Pre arbitration pay
    Owners: $10 million for top players
    Players: $105 million for top players

    I say split the difference here. $55 million costs the owners an extra $1.5 million each.

    7. Other
    Owners: Eliminate draft pick compensation for FA.
    DH: have not heard anything.

    I probably missed some things but this is a pretty good summary. items 1 and 3 are the only problems from where I sit and I am in total agreement with the owners on item 1. I also think the players proposal in item 3 is bad. I would prefer the system as used today but with the added draft picks to teams that don’t delay service time to top 100 picks. but needs to do it 3 times before they get a pick.

    • BK

      That is a good summary. A couple of follow-ups:

      The players want to reduce revenue sharing from the large market teams to the smaller market teams. The Owners don’t want to change Revenue Sharing.

      There is also disagreement about the minimum salary.

      I like the idea of pre-arb players getting pay increases for performance. However, there is more than just the difference in dollars for that year’s performance hike. As these players go through their arbitration years, all of their subsequent earnings will also be higher. The impact on future earnings must also be factored in as it will increase player costs.

    • Frankie Tomatoes

      Bob Castellini, we’ve found your burner account.

  11. LDS

    I think most people knew the owners weren’t going to negotiate in good faith from the outset. The owners think they have the upper hand and that they “own” the players. They also think the fans will just rollover and come crawling back to the ballparks in June, July, whenever. They really need to be disabused of their illusions. One thing they need to remember is the big media contracts lose value if the fans aren’t buying the subscriptions. And as I’ve said previously, get rid of MLB’s antitrust exemption.

    • Stock

      the owners are not negotiating in good faith?

      Pre arbitration. Owners are offering about a 15% raise for pre-arbitration players. Player want about a 100% raise.

      The players want to all but eliminate the salary cap. This is something every sport has and needs to maintain competitive balance. The problem is it is already so high that big market teams like the Dodgers and Yankees make the playoffs every year. While small market teams such as the Reds need to look for a window of opportunity. If the players proposal is accepted then the Dodgers payroll will be twice that of the Reds and makes their window very small.

      The players want to eliminate a year of control. Again this hurts small market teams and the competitive balance of baseball. I get it. The players want more. But they need to look at it from the perspective of some sort of revenue sharing. None of their proposals do this.

      • LDS

        The small market argument doesn’t hold water for me. The owners are not negotiating in good faith, period, end of story. Much as Curt Flood did with the reserve clause, the monopoly status of the league needs to be challenged and ended.

  12. ClevelandRedsFan

    I tend to agree with some of the others here. The players have an unrealistic wish list. They want to move the needle both for the mega contracts for superstars and for the rank and file players. Can’t have both. That’s not how negotiations work. If the players want to move the needle on one front, they need to give something up on the other front.

    For example, prioritize rank and file players and offer to lower the luxury tax threshold.

    Or for example, raise the luxury tax threshold and drop demands for reaching free agency sooner or arbitration sooner.

    Owners will never agree to doing both. Players expecting them to is simply unrealistic.

    • Doug Gray

      The players have already dropped the demands for earlier free agency and they are asking to raise the luxury tax thresheold. So apparently their wish list isn’t unrealistic at all and the owners still aren’t on board.

      • BK

        Well, I think we’re seeing why the Owners believe a mediator might help. The players dropped their demand for free agency to begin after 5 years–this was never a realistic demand without a SIGNIFICANT corresponding offset. If the Owners dropped an unrealistic demand you would call them out in a heartbeat for negotiating in bad faith.

        The players maintain their ask to significantly raise the CBT AND they want multiple mechanisms to increase pay to younger players (increased min salary, 1-year earlier arbitration (probably another unrealistic expectation from the Owners point of view) or $100M bonus pool for pre-arb players that will lead to larger salaries during arb years for players. Seems to me they are looking for rather large gains for both higher salary players and lower salary players.

        Hence, it may be very helpful to have an arbitrator sit down with each side and help them see exactly how much or how little their respective points of view move the needle.

      • ClevelandRedsFan

        Fair, players did drop that demand. But, keeping the structure the same isn’t giving something on one front to gain on another. Owners also agreed to the pre-arb bonus pool, which addresses the players’ concerns of younger players’ not being compensated well. I will say that the 10 million they offered is a joke, and somewhere around 50 million would be fair.

        But that extra money needs to come in exchange for keeping the current luxury tax threshold or possibly even lowering it. Players continue to want 40 million/year contracts and significantly improved pay for younger players. Players need to pick their priority.

      • Doug Gray

        Again, look at the chart in the article. Revenues are going up at far high rates than salary or the luxury tax – why should the players have to accept keeping the luxury tax basically stagnant despite that happening?

      • BK

        “… why should the players have to accept keeping the luxury tax basically stagnant despite that happening?”

        Your premise assumes that the current CBT level is appropriate. I don’t agree with that underlying assumption. The CBT essentially acts as a soft salary cap. Teams have shown some reluctance to cross it. I would contend, it’s already too high. Moreover, its current level directly contributes to the disparity in spending we see between the larger/smaller market teams. In my view, the CBT level provides a structural advantage for both large market teams and enables the enormous contracts elite players get in baseball. By structural advantage, I mean it part of the framework team operate under and not within their control to change. As a result, raising the CBT works in direct opposition to two of MLBPA’s stated goals: improving competition (or at least eliminating tanking) and improving pay for younger and/or mid-tier veteran players.

        1. Let’s start by comparing with other leagues: For 2021, MLB’s first tier of the CBT was $210M, in the NBA the luxury tax started at $136M (tax apron stopped at $142M, salary cap was $112.4M), and the NFL cap was $182.5M. Of course, revenue differs among each sport. In 2019 (pre-COVID), their revenues we reported as $10.7B for MLB, $8.8B for the NBA, and $16B for the NFL. If we normalize the NBA’s top cap level of $142M to MLB’s larger revenue pool it would be $172.7M. So, MLBs lowest CBT level is 22% higher than the NBA after normalizing for revenue and 15% higher than the NFL which had 40% higher revenue than MLB in 2019.

        2. CBT enables the enormous contracts we see in MLB. 16 of the top 20 sports contracts in terms of total value have gone to MLB player … globally and MLB contracts are fully guaranteed–not always the case in the NFL or even the NBA.

        3. The very high CBT helps elite players, not all players. In 2020, just 37 players (about 1,000 players played in MLB in 2020) accounted for 25% of player payroll. Half of player payroll went to just 103 players or about 3 players per team. The top half of MLB players get 90% of payroll. I would say this type of disparity in pay for employees performing similar work is quite the anomaly. (data from Spotrac)

        4. The current level of the CBT creates an inefficient market. Teams have highly disparate resources to acquire talent. Using Forbes as a source and the 2019 season as a baseline, the Washington Nationals are the #10 team in terms of market value and revenue. The Nats revenues were $94M (34%) more than the Reds. The costs to operate a team is largely the same from market to market. Every team ahead of the Nats had an even larger advantage. In fact, the Dodger and Yankees have more than twice the revenue of the Reds. 17 of the top 48 contracts are with MLB’s top 5 revenue teams. 32 of the top 48 contracts are with the top 10 teams. Every year we see larger market teams offer record-setting contracts (either total value or AAV). Why? These teams’ revenue advantage allows them to take on more risk and offer more money than most of their competitors. They can also take on more of these larger contracts. As we’ve seen over the last several years, more and more teams enter a season without a realistic chance of winning a World Series. As such, they are reluctant to sign mid-tier free agents (at least at values they may have in the past).

  13. Optimist

    The players should accept the mediator proposal – it does a few things, 1 – calls the owners bluff and flushes out the “smaller theory” of Doug and others – which I suspect is not that small, but should be identified and isolated. 2 – it sets up the players nicely for a strike/lockout going into spring. They will need to amplify the anti-trust angle to focus on the owners monopoly power. Politically, look at all those places that lost MiLB, and look at all those empty publicly owned/financed stadiums. What did all those tax breaks get the public?

    Finally, get some players and some baseball going somewhere with a TV deal – Australian winter ball, expanded Mexican league schedules, small-town limited attendance leagues? Anything creative to fill a screen and some seats and show that players want to play.

  14. Old Big Ed

    I don’t think ownership really cares much about the PR war, at least now. They are arguing with the players about how to split $10+ billion/year, and baseball fans do not get to vote on how to split the money up. As long as no regular season games are lost, it doesn’t matter which side is “blamed” for slow negotiations.

    I think that ownership may unilaterally end the lockout and open spring training. And continue to “negotiate.” Both sides are under a legal obligation to negotiate in good faith, and they meet this standard so as long as they make regular albeit small concessions. Ending the lockout would put enormous strain on the unsigned players, including stars like Castellanos and most low/middle free agents, because they would need to scramble to get signed in an unsure market. (Castellanos may opt to sign a one-year deal with a new team, which would hose the Reds out of comp pick.)

    Then, any work stoppage — one that is certain to cost regular season games — would come in the form of a player’s strike, for which the union would be blamed, especially if the players reject a mediator.

    Neither side really wants to lose games, because it risks cooking the goose that laid the golden egg. The mediator idea is not a bad one, but it ought to be a mediator whom the sides pick jointly and one who already knows the unique business structure of a sports league. It doesn’t have to be the federal mediation service, which does routine labor-management disputes, and this is much more complicated than that.

    To me, the general problem is that ownership has figured out that MLB is much more of a young man’s game than it was a generation ago. The game has become much faster; fastballs are faster and sliders slide more than 25 years ago. Young hitters can catch up to fastballs more easily than the 35-year-olds can.

    As a result, teams have stopped paying big, extended contracts to hitters much past their early 30s, except for the big stars like Trout. So, a good, decent hitter can’t really cash in when he is 25 (because of the CBA), and can’t cash in at 33, because he is deemed too old (and in fact he is too old, in most cases). The merely good hitter, then, has a narrow window to make any money, even if he last 8 years. And all but a few pitchers are deemed to be injury risks (which they are), and few really cash in for very long. Players want and deserve a fix to the issue of the narrow earnings window.

    • Doc

      If a player manages to make it through the arbitration years, he will have earned more money in his 5-7 year career than I earned in 35 years of practicing medicine. I have no sympathy.

      • Old-school

        Amir Garrett had a 6.04 ERA and -.3 war and still projected to get a big pay raise in arbitration to $2.1 million after already making millions

        But the players are getting the raw end of the deal

      • Jimbo44CN

        And for playing a game that any of us would have given anything to be talented enough to play at that level!

      • Vada

        Doc, it can’t be said any better. Bravo !!!

        That puts things into perspective.

        Doctors save lives. Players don’t. Doctors care about their patients. Players not so much for fans.

    • greenmtred

      The golden goose egg is already soft-boiled, I think. Baseball risks becoming a marginal sport, major in name only. Doc: I’d be in some agreement with you if the owners weren’t making so much money . In our culture, we pay top-flight entertainers very handsomely, and the players are in that category. Do I think that singers, actors and athletes are overpaid and over-valued relative to doctors, teachers and chimney sweeps? Yes, but there is a very limited supply of very good entertainers, and something approaching limitless demand for what they offer.

  15. James K

    This has dragged out way too long, and I blame the commissioner. The negotiators need some adult supervision, and the commissioner isn’t providing it.

    • Optimist

      ? The commissioner is the negotiator.

  16. Doc

    I was a baseball fan from the time I first heard radio broadcasts or Reds games in the early 50s. Once strikes and lockouts began, I have no longer been a baseball fan, only a Cincinnati Reds fan. This labor issue cuts that the last thread in that unravelling cord. Not only has baseball lost me, but it also means that my kids and grandkids have not been brought up as baseball fans. It won’t be the first industry to die, nor the last. I believe it is no longer a matter of if, only of when.

  17. DataDumpster

    The post of Old Big Ed is a very good discussion of the issues and why the owners (still) have the upper hand. I think he is right on target that the lockout will be lifted and this will force a player’s strike. Of course, the casual fan will blame the players (again) and we will get perhaps a 125 game season and expanded playoffs. That combination has some advantages all around and owners don’t miss much revenue if the season starts in late May. Also, what is to prevent the owners for letting minor league players “replace” the strikers and salvage the season if no agreement is reached?

  18. west larry

    I usually blame both the owners and players when uncertainty and season delays occur. This year I blame the owners for their stubborn refusal to come to the table and exchange proposals. If we do have arbitration, it should be binding arbitration. Let’s get these talks moving!

  19. Steven D

    Look I know this is a baseball site and not football. I love the Reds and enjoy baseball season. That being said, if the Bengals win next Sunday, I seriously don’t care if the whole season is cancelled I will still be celebrating that victory well into July

  20. Votto4life

    I am not expecting the season to start until at least mid-May. To be honest, as a Red’s fan, I don’t think there is a lot to be optimistic about in the near term.

    I tend to side with the players in these types of disputes, but I am getting to the point where I don’t care all that deeply either way.

    I’ll watch the Reds when the season starts, but until then, I’ll find other activities to keep me busy.

    • TR

      Well said. For me, the rebirth of the Burrow Bengals could not have happened at a better time.

  21. Hotto4Votto

    I see the owners continue their 3 year crusade of not actually offering any bargaining whatsoever and continue to try to shift PR blame to the players. Shiesty.
    100% on the players side. Don’t play until they give you what you deserve.

  22. Jimbo44CN

    And now the players have rejected arbitration. Goodbye baseball. At least for now.

  23. Kevin Patrick

    I am so proud of so much of the discourse in this thread. I feel like I’m in the right place.

  24. MK

    I’ve been on both sides of union negotiations, even my late father was a union president. It is very difficult to take an issue away that has been won in a previous agreement. When the owners have gained the service time issue previously in a very contentious negotiation, it is hard to justify giving that back the next time. I believe a mediator would say you agreed to this before you shouldn’t request a change this time. The owners probably know a mediator would more than likely rule their way.

    • David

      MK, that’s a good point. Most of us have never been in management – labor negotiations.
      The reality of this sort of thing is different that we might idealize it, or wish it to be.
      But from the fan’s reality, it does seem that the players and owners don’t care that much about what the fans think or perceive. However, they are all interested in creating an image (the “press release” that Doug published above). The fact that it isn’t strongly based in reality should make us all pause a bit.
      I have seen the results of labor- management negotiations, where one side lost something that they previously thought was “theirs”. The result is unending bitterness, especially when it is labor that loses.
      In part, I really don’t care what the ownership group of the Cincinnati Reds thinks, but we should remember that without that ownership group, there would not be a Cincinnati Reds. They likely would have moved the franchise to greener pastures by now (greener = more money).

  25. Buddman2006

    Obviously I was able to only use the approximate total money from the chart, but I came up with 38 percent of the pie in 2003 versus 40 percent in 2019. So the players take actually increased not decreased! Probably went to the higher end contract but either way, player share went up!