On Thursday the Major League Baseball Players Association and the ownership representatives met for yet another meeting as they try to come to an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement. Currently the players are locked out by the owners and that’s preventing spring training from starting, free agency from continuing, and trades from happening. There are a lot of areas where the players and the owners are in disagreement – both in terms of what should be added to the new agreement as well as just how much money should go to who in things that they both seem to agree on.

One of the big things that the owners want is expanded playoffs. The reason is pretty simple – the owners make a killing on playoff games due to how much networks are willing to pay for a playoff game. Ownership is asking for 14 playoff spots, while the players have countered with 12….. but, on Thursday the players put an asterisk on that 12. They have told the owners that if the 2022 season isn’t 162 games then they won’t agree to 12 teams in the playoffs this year.

The idea here is that the players want a full season to happen and that they don’t really get some extra boost for playoffs, while the owners would actually make more money by having a shortened season but expanded playoffs. The players are attempting to put the pressure on the owners to get a deal done so they can benefit from those expanded playoffs this year and all of the additional money that comes with it.

Jeff Passan of ESPN reported last night that negotiation sessions are likely to ramp up in multiple ways. He’s reporting that starting as early as Monday that the two sides could begin having meetings every day and that some owners, as well as some players are expected to fly in and join the meetings that haven’t been there in the past.

With a weirdly identified “deadline to start the regular season on time” date of February 28th (something that the owners have said, but the players haven’t exactly agreed on), that gives the sides probably two-ish weeks to hammer out an agreement to get the regular season started on time and not have to find a way to either make up games or miss games entirely.

16 Responses

  1. ryan

    Like hockey, just let virtually everyone into the playoffs, no doubleheaders, play into December, and have the WS at a warm-weather neutral site!

  2. Ken

    What irks me as a Reds fan is something must be done about competitive balance. Yankees, Dodgers, etc. pillage the small markets. Ever see Green Bay Packers getting victimized in personnel administration? NEVER. The NY teams stink to high heaven and they cannot use their considerable wealth to buy their way out of quicksand like the hideous Mets just did. SALARY CAP OR BUST. The Union is a curse for Reds fans. I wouldn’t care if 2022 season went by the boards if the Reds can get a balanced playing field.

    • Jon

      A salary cap will never happen. It would take money away from the players and leave it to the owners.

      • BK

        In the NFL, NBA, and NHL the salary cap came with a defined, guaranteed share of revenues for the players. It has put both the players and owners into the position where both “win” when the game prospers.

      • Herbert Dearing

        Owners don’t play the game,The players are who we go to see they the players deserve all they can get I’ll never stop supporting the players,

    • Mark Moore

      Careful … you might just get your wish for 2022.

    • Stock

      Great post Ken. It just seems to me the players could care less about the competitive balance of the game. The money is the thing and they want huge raises.

      • Alex

        The owners don’t either. More playoff slots = appearance of competitiveness, not actual. Also, the owners would never go for the structures the other sports have, that would mean them getting less revenue off the top. I don’t see the owners going from 63% of revenue to 50%. That’d be like asking them to finance the stadiums they get 100% of the revenue off of. Silly citizen.

  3. Jimbo44CN

    I thought about this for a while before posting. I worked over 40 years in the same industry. At most any time I could have borrowed, saved whatever to form my own startup company. Then I could have invested MY own money in that business. I could have succeeded for failed, but it was MY money. As much as they have these owners are the employers and the players are employees. If you work for a company of any sort thats worth a crap, they value their employees because the good ones are awfully hard to come by. Believe me, I know. I hired and fired many throughout the years. My point is this. If these multimillion dollar ballplayers want to make all the decisions, let them invest in their own team and pay all the enormous costs that come with that, and that includes investing their own capital.
    Now I don’t think the owners are saints, but baseball players are already the highest paid players of any US sport, and they want more, more, more. This is supposed to be a team game, but more and more you see players trying to improve their WAR stats to make them more valuable, and that’s not what a team is about. I think the owners need to be fair to the players, but not this ridiculous idea that they are the same as the owners, their employers. I know many will disagree, and Doug, I am sure you will, but this is just my thoughts on this. And the longer this goes on, the worse it will be for the fans, and they will leave the game in droves, possibly to the point of bankruping some teams. I sure hope not, as I love the game, but this is just too much.

    • Stock

      I love your post Jimbo. Every business owner takes risks. Employees do not need to take these same risks. Elon Musk’s net worth has skyrocketed the last 4 years. My guess is he did not triple the salaries of his employees. He took all the risks. When it pays off Musk is not suddenly obligated to give his employees a 50% pay raise. Same with Baseball.

      That said if the players are willing to push the postseason to 14 teams they should be rewarded for that. In fact I would think players deserve up to 80 or 90% of this additional revenue.

      • greenmtred

        Risk? Risk isn’t just about money, guys. Year ago, my wife worked for a bank, and at the Christmas party, I was chatting with one of the investment officers and he asked what I did. I was a tree-climber, had spent the previous day 75 feet in the air with a chainsaw, cutting down a dying maple in pieces. His response? “Oh, it must be nice to not have to deal with risk.” There is no game without the players, just as the structure of MLB requires owners. Both groups have risks, both groups are responsible for the future of the game. I shudder.

  4. LDS

    Small market is a canard, an excuse the Reds have used for ages. The ownership is simply making money without significant investment, something we’d all like to do. These negotiations thus far seem to support the argument that the owners are simply looking for more ways to make money and limit the amount shared with the players. Generally, I’m not in favor of unions but I’m even less in favor of monopolies.

    • BK

      In 2019, the Yankees had in excess of $400M more revenue than the Reds. All teams have roughly similar fixed costs. There are several teams that have a structural advantage over the Reds and other small market teams.

      • Old Big Ed

        BK, I think I’ve told you about 3 times that this site does not allow comments from people who actually understand finance and economics.

        There are hundreds of businesses in New York for which spending $200,000+/year on tickets for clients is a rounding error. There are maybe 5 in the Cincinnati area. The YES Network serves a television market that is more than 10 times larger than that of the Bally Sports Ohio network, plus YES broadcasts events year-round. Cincinnati is a “small market,” and it is folly to suggest otherwise.

        You are also correct that the fixed costs are roughly equivalent from team to team, because each team has similar costs for travel, minor league, spring training, insurance, scouting, analytics, coaching, front office, equipment, etc. To an extent, it is similar to racehorses — the Kentucky Derby winner doesn’t really cost any more to train or own than does a decent allowance horse. They eat the same food, travel in the same vans, and require the same morning exercises. (Wives, however, can vary.)

        Revenue sharing, then, is a crucial but hidden part of this negotiation. It behooves the players to have 30 competitive teams — i.e., 30 potential employers — as opposed to only 7 or 8. The players need each of the 30 teams to be financially viable.

        “The Owners” do not share the same interests with each other in regard to the CBA any more than “The Players” share the same interests with each other. Nick Castellanos has a different perspective on things than does TJ Friedl, and the Yankees look at things differently than do the Royals.

        With this background, and with the understanding that they are dividing up $10+ billion a year, I don’t know why anyone should be surprised that this is an intricate negotiation that goes slower than we all want it to go. Personally, I don’t think that they are really that far apart, and I am confident that nobody in either group (not even the Pirates) really wants to lose any regular season games. So I expect a lot of progress this week.

      • Tom Reeves

        Spot on Ed!

        And BK definitely brings a great perspective.

        Unfortunately, the interest of the players and the owners and the fans don’t align. And, there is misalignment of interests within the sub groups.

  5. Bred

    All the money talk ignores the long term cancers eating away at what was once the national pastime. Jason Stark in a conversation with Bob Costas has an interesting article at the Athletic: Five things baseball can learn from the NFL playoffs.
    His comments are based on the fact that the MLB owners and players are not looking to improve the game. They are only dividing the pie that looks healthy, but the game’s future seems to be less than the past. In 1994 there were more singles than strikeouts. Strange, huh. Now there are 5 singles to 9 Ks per game. Over a season that comes to 20,000 less hits that equates to less action on the field. He discusses other topics that point out that TV is making decisions that harm future fans from seeing and enjoying the game. College football and the NFL have better marketing and a better product than the MLB. It does not have to be that way, but I do believe the MLB needs to adjust the game to create more action so the players can use their skills to create excitement. IMO the shift is an alteration of the game the destroys action, creates outs, causes strikeouts, and makes the game slow, and robs players of the chance to create action. I really want to see a third baseman making plays in right field. Yeah, I’m old and miss among other things singles, steals, pitchers going 9, I even miss what is now derided as a waste bunts, and playoff games that end before 1am. Give it a read if you have a subscription to the Athletic.