Earlier today we saw Major League Baseball released a statement that said that they were going to be postponing the start of spring training games until at least March 5th. The start of spring training was already supposed to begin, but the owners have locked the players out until the two sides can reach an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement (the lockout is not something that has to happen, it’s a choice made by the owners).

Here is the full statement from Major League Baseball:

We regret that, without a collective bargaining agreement in place, we must postpone the start of Spring Training games until no earlier than Saturday, March 5. All 30 clubs are unified in their strong desire to bring players back to the field and fans back to the stands.

The clubs have adopted a uniform policy that provides an option for full refunds for fans who have purchased tickets from the clubs to any Spring Training games that are not taking place. We are committed to reaching an agreement that is fair to each side. On Monday, members of the owners’ bargaining committee will join an in-person meeting with the Players Association and remain every day next week to negotiate and work hard toward starting the season on time.

Let’s take a quick look at that second sentence…..

All 30 clubs are unified in their strong desire to bring players back to the field and fans back to the stands.

They must need a super strong desire instead of just a strong desire since at any point they can lift the lockout, start spring training and games, and continue to negotiate the collective bargaining agreement. Of course at this point we shouldn’t be surprised at all that the owners are gaslighting us. The first thing that did after instituting a lockout was saying they did so to speed up negotiations, and then they spent six weeks not making a counteroffer to the MLBPA’s offer.

Of course we can also look at the first sentence that says they MUST postpone the start of spring training. Guys, words have meanings and you are using that word incorrectly. You can lift the lockout before I even hit publish on this article and spring training can start tomorrow.

As noted earlier today, beginning on Monday the MLBPA and owners representation (as well as several owners who haven’t been directly involved at the table in the past) will begin meeting daily to try and truly getting things moving towards a completed deal.

39 Responses

  1. CI3J

    Doug, do you see any way the players actually have any leverage over the owners to get some concessions?

    During the last round of negotiations, the owners basically waited the players out until the players caved and got taken to the cleaners by the owners. How can this time be any different? The owners are mostly billionaires who view their baseball franchise as one of many potential revenue streams, so they are in no rush to agree to a deal they don’t like.

    Meanwhile, the median salary of an MLB player is a little over $1 million, and every day they are not playing, they are losing out on that money for good. While I know people will think “$1 million? I could wait the rest of my life for a better deal with that kind of money!”, but would you have that attitude if you knew you could earn more?

    Also, while the media salary is $1 million, the minimum is $563, 500. While again, that’s a decent amount of money, that can dry up real quick the longer the games are stopped.

    So I sadly don’t see a way players are going to get owners to blink. They simply have more to lose than the owners do by an extended lockout. I know you could argue something like “Owners are alienating the fans.”, but it seems like they don’t especially care about that, either, since most of their money comes from the TV deals.

    What can the players do?

    • Mjc

      $4.17 million
      According to recent data, MLB players in 2021 earn an average income of $4.17 million, however, the median income of $1.1 million shows a totally different picture. The average salary of an MLB player in 2021 has reportedly decreased by 4.8% since 2019, dropping to $4.17 million a year.

  2. Mark Moore

    None of this is encouraging from where I sit. There are fundamental things that are broken and may never be addressed. I’m still not optimistic about games before mid-summer at this point. There just seem to be too many points in conflict.

    But what do I know? Maybe they will surprise us all and strike a deal. And maybe a little later, monkeys might fly out my butt.

  3. Stock

    Colorado Red hit the nail on the head. The owners would be foolish to lift the lockout as Doug suggests, until a deal is reached. The owners have much more leverage right now. If the owners lift the lockout and the players wait until August to strike they MLBPA has all the leverage. The owners are not foolish.

    Neither side wants to delay the start of the season. But if there is no post-season the owners will make sure it has a negative impact on player salaries. At this point every game missed hurts the players more than it hurts the owners.

    • greenmtred

      And every game missed hurts baseball more than it hurts the owners or the players. The owners, if not foolish, are short-sighted: They may get the concessions they want from the players, but the game itself will lose more fans and fail to attract younger fans. More revenue, as I understand it, comes from sources other than ticket sales, but dwindling interest in the game will eventually be reflected in those other sources of revenue.

  4. Stock

    The players are pushing to increase the salary cap dramatically. This would be great for the Dodgers, Yankees, Cubs and other franchises but would further widen the competive balance in the sport.

    The players are pushing to reduce revenue sharing. This would be great for the Dodgers, Yankees, Cubs and other franchises but would further widen the competive balance in the sport.

    The players are attempting to reduce the time under control by a year or more. This would be great for the Dodgers, Yankees, Cubs and other franchises but would further widen the competive balance in the sport.

    If the players get what they want it will not be long when a bad season for the Dodgers means they win only 120 games.

    For the sake of the games I can not support the players position on these issues.

    • Mark Moore

      I tend to agree the upward spiraling numbers there just don’t make good sense overall from a fan’s perspective. I still think the anti-trust exemption is a big rock in the middle of all this, but I’m enough of a realist to know it isn’t going away soon or easily.

      I’m with the players about earlier reward for young players and that larger pool for the top low-end-on-the-pay scale players. The $85 million gap might as well be $500 million. And the service time manipulation happens – we’ve seen it – and it has to go.

      Open the books all around and find a way for all 30 teams to be competitive. Otherwise, as Stock said, the NY and Cali teams end up running the show (they do now for the most part).

    • Mjc

      Stock, once again you’ve nailed it. The owners are being reasonable offering a 12% raise to minimum. While the players want a 36% raise for players who haven’t played a game yet thru arbitration. 12 % raise is very respectable . Most industries would be jealous of such a raise. And i agree with stocks point. You better get use to seeing the Dodgers, Yankees, Mets, Phillies,Red Sox etc. in the playoffs /World Series. With the strong possibility of seeing our Reds in the playoffs very seldom .World Series maybe not at all.

  5. Old-school

    Im on the other side

    Trying to figure out which Red is getting screwed on the 40 man roster.

    Alex wood stole $9.65 mil from this franchise . Shogo is stealing $24 mil
    Moose is stealing $60 mil

    Votto gets $250 mil

    Suarez has a good deal hitting .190
    Taking $67 mil

    Senzel is doing well
    Garrett too with his 5.2 ERA
    Hoffman got a mil pitching 3 innings + getting rocked

    Winker Mahle and Castillo are going to get paid

    India deserves more but got $5 mil already

    • Luke J

      Some of those players are overpaid for their current production, but no one is stealing anything. Those contracts were mutually agreed upon with arms length negotiations. If the team overpays those players, they have no one to blame but themselves.

      • Old-school

        And when suarez hits .190
        And Shogo fails miserably and moose never performs…. The owners rightly can say performance matters and health matters

        Just watch the owners win this

    • Doug Gray

      I’ll help:

      ALL of them got screwed. Jonathan India provided provided the Reds with $31,000,000 in value last season.

      Eugenio Suarez has provided the Reds with $126,000,000 in value in his career to this point.

      Joey Votto has provided the Reds with $440,000,000 in value in his career to this point.

      You’re on the wrong side.

      • Old-school

        How much value does that nurse or respiratory therapist in the covid ICU provide? How bout that truck driver or food line worker or 78 year old kroger cashier who worked through a pandemic literally risking life and limb? How bout that 9th grade teacher trying to reach kids who checked out 2 years ago? Are they getting paid their fair share?

        Mlb baseball players have it pretty good.

      • Doug Gray

        No, they aren’t getting paid their fair share, either. But unless you’re going to pass a law that says professional baseball teams have to start taking their revenue and giving it to teachers and nurses it’s got absolutely nothing to do with the revenue share of the money that should go to the players in Major League Baseball.

      • greenmtred

        I’ve considered the same point, old-school, but baseball isn’t the only occupation that is over-paid and over-valued compared to nurses, teachers, first-responders, etc. Supply and demand trumps worthiness in our economy. I don’t like it, you don’t like it, but it isn’t likely to change.

      • Stock

        Greenmtred, I agree with your supply and demand arguement to a degree. But unions changed that years ago. I have no doubt Kroger could fire the cashier making 25-30 dollars an hour and replace them with someone for 15 dollars an hour. However, the union came in and negotiated salary and job security and now Kroger pays her a little more than supply and demand.

        Likewise in baseball where the MLBPA (a union) negotiated 1st year salaries. They negotiated years of control. They negotiated the salary cap. Because of these negotiations India can earn $31.6 million and get paid $0.6 million. But on the other hand Moustakas can earn a negative $3.4 million and get paid $14 million.

        I agree supply and demand plays a role in player salaries. But salaries are constrained by the limitations negotiated by the union.

        Obviously the union has the right to renegotiate their contract which is what they are doing. However, I for one feel what they are asking will in the long run destroy the game and reduce their salaries.

      • greenmtred

        Nationally, unions are much diminished compared to their power decades ago. Further, really large, multi-site businesses can often wait out a strike. The baseball owners seem to be doing this right now. My invocation of supply and demand influence in baseball refers to how few people are gifted enough to play at the MLB level. The same situation pertains to other sports, and other forms of entertainment: Some actors, singers and–even–people who are famous just for being famous make much more money than nurses and teachers do.

    • Stock

      Old School you are right. Doug claims “you are on the wrong side” by comparing apples to oranges. Doug is right that if players were paid fair market value for their performance and were in free agency then India would have earned $31.6 millon last year. What he is not telling his readers is that this number is high because the system negotiated by the players allows for players to make $600k their first three years regardless of performance. This savings allows the owners to pay an inflated salary to those in free agency.

      Take the 2021 Reds as an example. 40 man roster salary at YE was $131 million. However, based upon off-season moves it is fair to say the Revenue came up about $30 million shy of what the Reds wanted because it sounds like their 2022 salary will be about $100 million. Assuming Bob is being honest when he says he wants to break even then the Reds lost about $30 million last year.

      Now lets use the unrealistic numbers Doug has thrown out. The Reds top 9 offensive players from last year (Castellanos, India, Votto, Winker, Stephenson, Farmer, Naquin, Barnhart and Suarez) and the top 9 pitchers (Mahle, Castillo, Miley, Gray, Sims, Cessa, Antone, Gutierrez, Warren) should have been paid 309 million.

      this means the Reds should have lost about $200 million if the players would have been paid what Doug says they earned. Within 3 or 4 years Bob would have to sell the team or declare bankruptcy and the Reds would no longer exist.

      Bob would not be able to sell the team because no businessman would purchase a business that is going to lose $200 million a year.

      And don’t think the Reds would be the only team to be out of business. I have no idea what revenue the Dodgers had in 2021 but I do know based upon Doug’s idea of value that their top 18 earned $486 million in 2021. Even the Dodgers would have probably lost $50 – $100 million in 2021.

      • Frankie Tomatoes

        Assuming Bob is being honest when he says he wants the team to break even is doing a whole lot of work here.

        You are right and wrong about the salary though. The overall spending wouldn’t change for the league. The funds would just be redistributed a little bit differently. No one would be losing hundreds of millions of dollars.

        The pay structure is broken in baseball. The players are trying to fix it a little bit by allowing the young not free agent guys get more of the pie – offering higher minimum salary, earlier arbitration, the pre arbitration bonus pool. Until the entire structure gets changed though nearly every player who has not reached free agency is going to be incredibly underpaid versus the value they provide and a solid amount of “older” guys will be overpaid for their current production.

        Basically the young guys are “stolen from” at a disgusting scale, and then later on in their career, if they ever get there, maybe they “steal” some of that back from the owners on the downside of their career.

      • Stock

        Good post Frankie. I agree that it would be nice to bump up the salaries of 1st year players. What I don’t like is the players desire to reduce revenue sharing and further separate small market teams from large market teams.

      • Mjc

        STOCK , thank you once again. You can really make a point and explain it well

  6. Luke J

    Do you actually think if the lockout was lifted today the players would show up to spring training and play without a CBA? Because that’s the way this one-sided article is written. It’s disingenuous at best. Be better.

    • docproc

      Doug’s making the point that MLB could have lifted this lockout at any point and negotiated in good faith toward a workable outcome. Instead, they left the doors locked and we have no baseball next weekend in Florida or Arizona–two states that built stadiums in good faith.
      Your response is disingenuous at best. Be better.

    • Doug Gray

      Yes, I do. Just like they did in 1995. And in 1996. And would have continued playing in 1994 had the owners not literally been breaking the law in those negotiations, too (after a court ruling that ruled they were – the players ended the strike within 48 hours and returned to the fields and the negotiating table).

      That better?

      • Stock

        LOL. That is right. It is 100% the owners fault that the players were on a strike that eliminated the post-season.

      • Doug Gray

        It is. They went on strike because the owners were literally breaking the law at the time and the players went on strike to try and stop it. It actually went to court, where the court ruled that the owners were indeed breaking the law. Within 48 hours of that decision being rendered, the players ended the strike and then went and played without a CBA in place for the 1995 and 1996 seasons. Had the owners not been literally breaking the law then the players wouldn’t have gone on strike.

      • BK

        I’m not sure exactly why you think the Owners were breaking the law when the Players went on strike. The Owners did not try to impose their plan (salary cap/revenue sharing) until Dec 1994–their unilateral imposing of their plan was struck down in March of 1995. The Players went on strike in August of 1994. There was a lot going on (Owner collusion was a major backdrop). The Players chose the time to exert the maximum pressure on Ownership–I’m not saying that was wrong, but the court ruling and the action that precipitated it came well later.

    • Mjc

      Luke J , agreed. Frankie tomatoes you sized up the situation pretty well

  7. Stock

    I agree with Luke that Doug is unjustly saying the work stoppage is the owners fault. Doug is wrong. But there is plenty of fault to go around.

    I believe if the owners ended the lockout the players would come back. They don’t have the leverage right now. They would play until late August and collect their paychecks and then if no agreement was reached (and the players would not budge because the further the season progresses the more leverage they have) they would strike in late August. They would risk 15% of their pay for the year knowing the owners would have to cave because there is too much money to be had with the playoffs.

    The lockout is all about holding onto the leverage. Frankly I am happy the owners have the leverage because the competitive balance of future baseball depends upon it.

    Also I would rather miss spring training games than world series games.

  8. 2020ball

    Firmly on the side of the players, I’m not sure why anyone would advocate for the owners to make mountains of money while the players provide the product. The same attitude is why college sports are so corrupt. The players deserve to be payed for their talent on the diamond, not the owners for their talent of cheap-skating their employees. Why anyone cares the actual amount of what the players are making when the owners are raking in at least quadruple the amount is beyond me.

    • Jimbo44CN

      The owners paid for their teams. The fact that they are now worth more than when they purchased them is the whole point of being in business. They took the risk and are making money.
      I don’t think they should take advantage of the players, but these guys make a hell of a lot of money for playing a game that I am sure ALL of us would have given almost anything to play at this level, regardless of money. If they increase the salary cap as someone suggested above, it’s going to be those same 3 or 4 teams at the top every year. But, and this is a big one. The longer this goes on, the more fans the game will lose.

      • 2020ball

        “I don’t think they should take advantage of the players, but these guys make a hell of a lot of money for playing a game that I am sure ALL of us would have given almost anything to play at this level, regardless of money”

        So no, I still dont get it. Whether its a lot of money or not their talents are why we watch, they deserve all that money and more. Thats whats bringing the money in in the first place. The owners deserve their share as well based on the “risk” they took. And still, why are we taking their side when they’re making the biggest slice? Just based on jealousy that I wish I could make that much to play a game that takes years and years of hard work to reach that level? Yeah I’m just confused I guess, the owners get away with taking all the money just because the money the players are seeing is “enough”. I dont understand, its exactly the type of attitude theyre banking on hoping the fans place the blame on the MLBPA.

        Good on the players for fighting this time, they took their concessions last CBA and got burned. There’s a lot at stake for them here and the owners are just trying to wait them out so they can make a billion more. I want baseball as much as the next person but no way would I advocate for the players to just concede so the owners can stay fat and happy.

  9. CFD3000

    I understand the argument of “Owners take the financial risk, they deserve the financial reward”. But here’s a genuine question and I’m curious to hear thoughtful answers. Has there ever been any three year period (even including 2020) where an ownership group of a major league team ever lost money? And has there ever been a franchise that sold for less than the original purchase price? You could argue that this “risk” argument in the MLB world is just gaslighting. I’d you’re a billionaire I don’t believe there’s any real risk in owning a baseball team, even the Reds. But if I’m wrong I’ll gladly change my mind.

    • BK

      No, the teams are all profitable and have been for at least the last two decades. That said, they are not equally profitable. Smaller market team owners get almost all of their return on investment from the appreciation of their respective franchise. The largest franchise generate positive cash flows, too.

      The Red’s CEO (one of many that make up the ownership group) has long stated they operate the team on a break-even basis annually. Forbes annual analysis backs up this statement. During 2020, the teams lost a reported $3B. For a team like the Reds, they have to take on debt to absorb that loss. That’s why you’ve seen them cutting payroll last year and during this offseason. In spite of their losses, they still have to pay everyone they have on contract–the contracts are fully guaranteed. This presents risk to them. Its why smaller market teams are reluctant to sign big, long-term contracts. In contrast, the other major U.S. sports share revenues by a defined percentage. The owners and players in those leagues share risk.

      As a result, it’s reasonable to expect MLB Owners, as a group, to want a higher return on investment for the risk the additional risk they assume in comparison to their peers (other big pro sports leagues). Because MLB lacks a revenue sharing agreement between the Owners and Players, payroll spending to a certain extent is discretionary to the Owners. What we’re seeing is teams that enter a season believing they are non-competitive minimize their payroll. This has resulted in players getting less of a share of revenues over the last few years.

      This is why MLB negotiations are so contentious. Every change in the players favor increases risk for the Owners. They just went through a 2-year period that has shown them they aren’t guaranteed to have revenues grow every year.

      One final point, nothing I’ve said implies the players don’t deserve a fair deal, but rather it should help explain one reason finding a deal is really, really hard.

    • greenmtred

      It’s not clear to me how much actual–as opposed to theoretical–financial risk the owners take. For that matter, players take a financial risk, too, by devoting themselves to the unlikely possibility that they will be among the tiny percentage who succeed in the game. And, of course, I don’t remember ever hearing of an owner suffering a career-ending injury.