Things didn’t quite go as planned, or as hoped over the weekend and on Monday between the Major League Baseball owners and the Major League Baseball Players Association. There was some movement on both sides towards each other’s requests on more than a few subjects. There was also, reportedly, some attempted shenanigans on the part of the owners to sneak things in at the last second, too.

With the owners planning to keep the players locked out until a new collective bargaining agreement is reached – and to be clear, this is not something that must be done as lifting the lockout would simply mean that they would operate under the same rules as the previous CBA with the exception of the luxury tax existing as it was written into the last one that when that CBA expires that it would not carry forward – there will be no games played in Major League Baseball.

So exactly how far apart are the two sides? It’s been written about by more than a few smart people in the last few days. While we haven’t been able to see the exact language or details in offers from either side in totality, there are some reasonable assumptions that can get us there. Joe Sheehan estimated in his newsletter on Wednesday that the two sides were somewhere between $215M and $265M apart on all of the monetary differences. At this small of a difference, he is seemingly of the belief that these numbers are so small overall that the players may just need to admit overall defeat, again, and move more towards the owners.

Ben Clemens also took a look at things on Wednesday over at Fangraphs. He concludes that the “new money” to the pre-arbitration players between a higher minimum salary and the bonus pool works out to be a difference between the two sides of less than $3M per team each year. The luxury tax issue still has a decent gap between the two sides asks, too. That number is tougher to figure out though because most teams simply aren’t going to get close to it and it’s not at all guaranteed money in any way. In the end, Clemens is estimating that it’s about $5.5M per team to get things done.

Joe Posnanski wrote in his newsletter on Wednesday, which you can read for free right here, about how we got to where we are, and what the fight is truly about in his opinion. There’s a lot more to it, but here’s what be believes the fight is really over:

No, the truly galling and appalling part is the future — the owners propose to raise the tax threshold by less than 5% and keep it there OVER THE NEXT THREE YEARS. That is the whole ballgame here. Everything else is smoke and mirrors and lights shining in your eyes. All the other proposals won’t cost the owners any real money. They could raise the minimum salary and put in a bonus pool for young players and pinky swear promise to not manipulate the service time of their most gifted prospects and pay for all that and more just with the extra bucks from their latest get-rich-quick expanded playoffs scheme.

But the real money, the owners know, is in the luxury tax. The owners — and by “owners,” I do mean the ones who don’t own teams in New York, Los Angeles, Boston and maybe a couple of other metropolitan hotspots — have come to understand as long as they keep that luxury tax in place, they will keep salaries right where they are. The luxury tax will prevent the aggressive clubs from spending to their full capabilities or desires. The luxury tax will stifle the free market.

And the owners will never have to pay the players more than they are already paying them. They can keep all that juicy gambling money and crypto money and rising franchise value money and advertising patch money for themselves. Also bottom-feeding teams can keep crying poor and cashing revenue sharing checks. Win-win!

When looking at an industry that’s probably on the verge of topping $12B in yearly revenues, the amount of money that’s stopping an agreement from taking places is tiny. Players start losing game checks when the regular season was supposed to start (though the MLBPA has a fund set up to begin sending checks to players – though not at the amount they would get if games were taking place). Owners have already started losing ticket revenue from spring training games. And they’ll also start losing revenue from regular season games when we get there. While spring games are money makers because players aren’t paid, early regular season games in many cities may not be due to lower attendance due to weather being, uh, not great and still needing to pay the players.

But while the owners may actually save some money by missing some regular season games, there is a breaking point. Once there are 24 games missed teams have to start paying back the sports networks for missed games (though let’s be sure to note that many teams in Major League Baseball are also at least partial stakeholders in the regional sports network that broadcasts the game – so they are paying themselves back a little bit, though in accounting because the two are technically separate businesses, it’s a loss for the team even if the owner is a part of the company he’s paying). Pressure from television partners, radio partners, and the newly aligned gambling companies could start to come quicker than late April when teams would have to start sending rebates back to the television broadcasters.

Maybe it won’t get to that and there’s a deal to be reached soon. Let’s all hope that’s the case because every day that goes by without baseball it’s likely to cost the sport even more in the long run and that’s not good for anyone.

52 Responses

  1. redsfan4040

    If no more games are cancelled, the Reds start the year at Atlanta for 4, home for 2 vs Cleveland, then a 7 day west coast trip for 4 at LAD and 3 at SD. Yikes. Can’t afford any slow starts from players when that’s your first 13 games.

  2. Redsvol

    Doug- quoting this joe posnanski on mlb labor negotiations is Like quoting Vladimir Putin on how to live in peace with your neighbors. Credibility matters.

  3. Steve D

    I asked this in another thread but if the Owners were dead set on not caving could they draft new players (college and high school) that are not part of MLBPA and Sign international
    Prospects and start from ground zero and try to basically start fresh with new players? Not saying it’s likely or a good decision I’m just wondering if it is legal?

    • Gonzo Reds

      NFL brought in scabs to play many years back so it’s been done before. That may have been a player strike though which could be different than owners locking players out and not honoring the player’s contracts when they want to play.

      Regardless, not going to happen and who would watch?

      • Steven D

        I guess and I pray this doesn’t happen but what if the owners are thinking they are not replacements. That the college and high school players will be the future in 5 years and they are getting a jump on the future by just paying them now. Will be a bad product for 5 years but are willing to take the losses to dissolve the union. Again, I pray this doesn’t happen and don’t think it will but it is just a thought as I wouldn’t put it past the owners.

    • Doug Gray

      That’s basically what happened 30 years ago – they brought in replacement players. It didn’t exactly work.

    • BK

      I don’t think they can do this legally at this point, but like the others have stated, it’s a really bad idea that simply does nothing more than antagonize the union. I think we will all agree their relationship does not need additional acrimony. After all, we can already watch MiLB and NCAA baseball. Could they really show us something better?

      • Steve D

        I totally agree with you. I just don’t can’t count anything out with the owners quest to eliminate the union.

  4. CFD3000

    The Owners are getting close to “cut off your nose to spite your face” mode. They don’t seem to understand, or care about, the long term implications of another shortened season. Maybe April isn’t where the money is made, but even hard core fans like me start to think about spending less on baseball when the Owners show that they do not care about the traditions or future of the game. Part of the majesty of Major League Baseball is a thread that runs through the record books and part of three different centuries. It’s bad enough that we just had a 60 game season – albeit not just the Owners’ fault – but now we’re going to have another year where we have to calculate prorated stats and consider unbalanced schedules and… it sucks. But the Owners don’t care. And fan money and TV and media money will not continue to grow and grow if fan interest is heading in the other direction for multiple years. Advertisers won’t pay for spots in games nobody watches. Empty seats generate zero revenue. Fans don’t buy the jerseys of replacement players. This is an embarrassing and offensive situation. Owning an MLB team is not just an investment it’s a responsibility – to the game, to the fans, to history and to the future. It’s past time for the Owners to own that responsibility too. I know this is now almost certainly a pipe dream, but a new CBA needs to happen right now. #Play162

    • MK

      Come up with a Salary Cap and tell any team that does not spend 95% of the cap they will lose their first and second round draft picks the following year. Cap is determined by averaging all the teams 2021 payrolls’ and add 20% to the average. The cap will be recalculated every two years. Even though players do not want a cap this gives them exactly what the want. This would create competitive Balance a increase player wages at same time.

  5. ClevelandRedsFan

    The biggest gap is still on the CBT. Setting aside the millionaire vs billionaire and gripes on both sides, the only question remains is it a fair level based on the players’ value.

    Fortunately, we have other leagues to draw as comparisons.

    NBA: 112 million and 136 million luxury tax threshold. NBA generated 9 billion in 2019 revenue.

    NFL: 208 million with 15 billion in 2019 revenue.

    MLB: Owners offering 220 million and players want 245 million. MLB was at 10 billion in 2019 revenue.

    Keep in mind, the NFL is a hard cap not a luxury tax threshold. So why should MLB have a CBT $40 million dollars higher than a league that generates more revenue? Why should it be 100 million more than a league that generates a little less revenue?

    It shouldn’t. This is an unrealistic demand by players and can’t be supported by market value when comparing to similar leagues.

    • Doug Gray

      NBA players are currently getting more of the NBA revenue than MLB players are getting of MLB revenue. And that’s just the revenue that MLB claims is “baseball revenue” and doesn’t include all of the absolutely “baseball revenue” that they claim isn’t.

      • Old Big Ed

        The NBA, though, is set up to have a higher split going to its players. The NBA has virtually no development costs, except in the limited G-League. The new NBA players each year are straight from college or Europe, and for the most part each game the draftees have played the last year or more is available on TV or on line. And the NBA draft is only 2 rounds, which indicates that the scouting element of it is much less costly than baseball scouting.

        Baseball, by contrast, has a ton of player development costs, which the MLBPA has always recognized by agreeing to the parts of the reserve clause that still remains, such as the rule on 6 years to free agency. Each team has I think around $15 million/year allotted to spend for draft bonuses and international signings, plus the operating cost of running the minor league systems is likely close to $8-10 million/year.

        Plus, the MLB teams have much higher scouting costs for amateur players. Elly De La Cruz was not playing 18 games on television in Rupp Arena. He was instead a obscure kid in the Dominican when the Reds found him and signed him.

        The extra $25 million/year or so in development that MLB teams have does not explain all of that, but it is probably close to 10% of the Reds’ revenue, and it is a major difference in the business models, particularly those on the lower end of the revenue scale.

        I do agree that the current CBA needs some player-favorable revisions. As I understand it, the players agreed to a CBT to discourage a rogue owner (like Cohen) from spending $350 million and signing every juicy free agent, and thereby making the league a mockery. It was not conceived as a salary cap, but has morphed into a version of one, which the players rightfully want addressed. But I think the CBT and the “pre-arb” pool are issues that can be resolved in fairly short order.

      • BK

        MLBPA has repeatedly, publicly stated they don’t want a fixed portion of revenues in their CBA.

        This “Baseball Revenue” argument is a giant red herring. The CBA detail explicitly what revenues count as “Baseball Revenue.” There is no reason including revenues teams derive from RSN ownership or from real estate owned by the team within a certain distance from the park couldn’t be included, too. Accountants can absolutely do this.

        I doubt the Owners would even ask for a cut from MLB Players, Inc. that markets player’s likenesses among other licensing arrangements on behalf of MLBPA although by you would certainly consider this to be baseball revenue if was run through MLB.

      • Doug Gray

        Sure, BK. You are not wrong about the players stance on the baseball revenues thing. And honestly, who can blame them? The owners hide so much revenue as “not baseball revenue” that it’s not funny.

        But, MLB gets money for all of the licensing for the MLB Players licensed stuff, too. So it’s not exactly a fair comparison.

      • BK

        MLB follows GAAP rules just like everyone else. They are subject to audits by the union (it’s in the CBA) and by the IRS. Just like you are an amazing baseball scout, accountants know how to track and follow money. It’s just another excuse to explain away why MLBPA doesn’t want the type of framework that is helping their competitors in the pro sports industries thrive.

    • Michael

      @clevelandredsfan

      The NFL also has a salary floor which I think is 90% of the cap putting it around 180 million and change. The players not factoring in practice squad guys get roughly 5.76 billion. MLB average team salary was 104,385 million. MLB players are getting a much lower percentage of revenue.

      • BK

        I believe the players would get the best deal under this type of arrangement as it provides the Owners with cost certainty for their labor expenses. This helps enormously in budgeting and planning as it reduces risk compared to the current CBA structure.

        As Old Big Ed points out, MLB has player development costs well beyond either the NFL or NBA. But if these were included in the Player’s percentage, I don’t know why the Players wouldn’t get a similar cut of revenues as the players do in the NFL or NBA.

      • ClevelandRedsFan

        MLB needs to follow a similar system. Owners offered a floor at 100 million and a cap at 180 million.

        The players rejected it without even discussing. They likely could have negotiated a higher floor and cap today and tied it to revenue, so both would grow every year/CBA. It’s not easy, but defining “baseball revenue” is achievable.

        This would have solved the tanking problem that has become a major talking point for players.

        Then owners/players wouldn’t have to try to beat each other down every new CBA and may actually work together on growing the game. Imagine that!

        This works in every other major sport except baseball. Salary cap is a 4 letter word to the players.

  6. Ken

    Baseball has been a cornerstone of my life beyond just being a fan. I operated a Minor League franchise for 5 years. I covered the minors as a reporter for 15 years. With that in mind, if the game doesn’t eliminate this Civil War every decade or two, it’s future is as bleak as the T-bone steak sitting on my dinner plate. And with such an obvious division between the NY / LA / BOS / CHI gluttons and the Quadruple-A clubs, only a brisk luxury tax can balance the playing field. I can’t believe I’m looking ahead with my love for the pro game off the radar.

    • BK

      Great points Ken. Baseball has always been my favorite sport and the Reds were my favorite team despite the fact that I didn’t even make my first trip to Cincinnati until I was 50. Unfortunately for MLB, college games are available almost daily. I’ve also grown to love NCAA softball–shorter games and a lot more action. The NFL is better than ever and so is the NBA–both of whom have found contracts that have them working together to make their games better each year. There are more options than ever. MLB is on the road to irrelevance if they don’t fix competition and learn how to work together.

  7. Optimist

    If, and it’s not that big an if, it’s truly down to the CBT, and the analyses are accurate, then I redouble my comment on from the other day – the owners are deep into stupid territory.

    How is this not the final risk-avoiding subsidy for their respective local monopolies? Are they really that angry at the Mets spending for the past few months? Don’t get stuck on stupid.

  8. BK

    As I’ve said all along, the CBT Threshold is the key. It’s this part of Joe P.’s statement that misdiagnosis the problem,

    “The luxury tax will prevent the aggressive clubs from spending to their full capabilities or desires. The luxury tax will stifle the free market.”

    Notice that MLBPA also refers the to the “market system” in their March 1st press release:

    “Players’ objectives have been consistent—to promote competition, provide fair compensation for young Players, and to uphold the integrity of our market system.”

    First, MLB (or any other sports league) is not a free market. It’s a game with rules that govern fair play and promote a competitive environment. Teams can’t relocate to more profitable locations without league consent, and they absolutely can’t play games in larger markets where other teams are present–it’s against the rules. All of the other major sports leagues share a fixed % of revenues between owners and players AND have salary caps to promote competition. They have roster limits. They play with the same equipment, same home plate, same distance from the mound to the plate, etc. All precisely regulated and arbitrated real-time by umpiring crews and replay using an agreed to rule book. This is all differs from how businesses compete from each other in a market economy. It’s a nice slogan, but it does not describe a sports league.

    MLB franchises have enormous differences in the resources they can apply to payroll. Both sides agree with this statement. Otherwise, there would be no reason for a Competitive Balance Tax (CBT) level in the first place.

    I’ll note once again, the lowest level of the CBT (functionally a soft cap) is way higher than salary cap levels in other leagues–spending levels that nearly every team achieves annually. Measuring against comparable industries is often foundational in CBA negotiations to help both sides have an objective standard for “fairness”–the ultimate goal of collective bargaining.

    In MLB, most teams not only can’t afford to spend to the lowest CBT level annually, but the larger market teams can and do. This results in the best free agents playing for the larger market teams at inflated prices. Just take a look at the largest sports contracts in terms of total value or average annual value–MLB players dominate those lists.

    As a result, small market teams go through competitive cycles where they shoot for windows to compete with their better resourced counterparts. You’ll note the small market Padres exceeded the CBT levels last year. When their window closes, they will sell off their best players for prospects, cut payroll and begin building for the next window of opportunity. The Indians are a good example of a team that has come out of a good competitive window. In contrast, the larger market teams go through much shorter rebuild cycles, if they have to go through one at all.

    Owner “cheapness” doesn’t drive the clearly problematic low spending of small market teams, it’s the fact that the competitive landscape tilts decidedly to a select group of teams.

    Moreover, MLBPA understands all of this. It’s why they don’t want a Mediator, because a Mediator will tell them how different the CBA framework is from comparable leagues. A Mediator will explain that the very high CBT leads works well for just a small number of players and teams. The results we are seeing in MLB payroll shifts are exactly what an economics professor would tell you to expect–this should surprise no one.

    MLBPA’s problem is ideological, not economic. They are willing to trade small gains for players in their first 3 years of service to give the Juan Sotos of the world the chance to get a contract in the $400M-$500M range. See the attached article where Ryan Zimmerman explains why a 13 year, $350M offer to Juan Soto is not as tempting as it may seem.

    https://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/mlb/ryan-zimmerman-on-juan-soto-reportedly-turning-down-nationals-13-year-350m-offer/ar-AAUsXxm?ocid=uxbndlbing

    For the current CBA framework to work, the CBT level need to stay close to where they are today (I do not think it’s realistic that the Players will agree to lower them or settle for no increase–human nature is still in play). If the levels go up as the Players have proposed, we’ll see more of the same behavior we’ve all loathed increasingly over the last two CBAs.

    The solution is to trade lower CBT levels for a higher league minimum salary and larger pool to pre-arb players. As many have pointed out, the dollars from expanded playoffs (and perhaps uniform patches) more than cover these areas, not to mention likely continued revenue growth. The players could also ask for a floor that ensures revenue sharing dollars are applied to payroll. But I sense the CBT may be a redline for the Owners and it’s not the total dollars, it’s the competitive effect that is problematic.

    • Frankie Tomatoes

      MLBPA doesn’t/didn’t want a mediator because it was going to serve two functions for MLB: Delay actual negotiating and also provide the owners with fun PR to say “the players didn’t want a mediator”. The mediator had zero ability to make anything happen. It was just going to be a third party in there saying “well….. this, that, the other”. That person held no power to actually do anything other than give their opinion to each side and twiddle their thumbs.

      But it went well to delay actual talks that mattered, which the owners wanted. And it gave them tons of PR to put blame on the players for “not wanting to negotiate” even when that was far from the truth.

      It seems from reports today that were on twitter that there is a group of owners stonewalling raising the luxury tax any higher than it already is. And that it is coming from teams who will never come close to reaching it. They simply don’t want to look even cheaper than they are because other teams are actually spending money and trying to win while they just live off of television contracts and revenue sharing checks without attempting to win.

      Sport is messed up and I’m not sure there’s a good fix when winning doesn’t matter and there’s no financial incentive to try to win.

      • BK

        @Frankie, MLBPA thought the Mediator offer was a stall tactic (absolutely plausible) AND they didn’t like their prior experience (back in 1994 before their strike). What a mediator can do is point to ways others have resolved their difference in similar industries. MLBPA is ideologically opposed to the solution that works well in their industry. That is, they don’t like the ‘idea’ and they don’t want an outsider (even an impartial one) suggesting that the Owners’ overall approach may work better than their approach.

        I will reiterate, the small market owners are pushing back on a provision that worsens their ability to compete. The fact that they can’t or won’t spend to the CBT threshold is irrelevant. They know several larger market teams will spend at least to the first CBT level and offer contracts that the smaller market teams can’t afford. This inflates the price of free agents beyond what it would be if the teams had similar payroll resources each year. It’s no different than giving pitchers for larger market teams a larger strike zone to pitch to. It’s a clear, advantage to a select number of teams.

        Of note, small market owners in other leagues spend to their sport’s respective caps consistently. You won’t find examples of what we see happening in MLB (tanking in large numbers) in the other major sports leagues, at least not systemically. Presumably, we’d see the “cheap” behavior elsewhere if it were in fact the cause as you suggest.

  9. old-school

    In actual baseball news, Eric Davis is working with Rece Hinds to learn RF as a position switch. Are Hendrick and Hinds likely to be at the same level in the minors or differnet levels as both are now RF.

    • Old Big Ed

      Post of the day.

      I doubt Hinds knows much about Eric Davis, but I bet Hinds learns a lot from him.

  10. Old Big Ed

    I think the MLBPA and MLB need to revamp how they negotiate the CBA. I think that they should have jointly hired an independent mediation group to assist them with this negotiation – beginning about this time last year.

    This is not a standard-issue collective bargaining agreement, because sports leagues are a unique business venture. The teams are both competitors AND partners with each other. They compete for available talent and on the field, but they are inherently business partners as well.

    A viable sports league needs each team to have a fair chance to compete for a championship. If not, the fans of the bad teams quit caring and quit paying. TV revenues shrink, because nobody wants to watch bad competition. There is a reason that the NCAA plays the first-round game between Duke v. Prairie View A&M (#1 v. #16) at noon on Thursday — nobody except the parents really want to watch it. (No offense, Virginia fans.)

    If the Yankees and Red Sox spend so much as to go 108-54 every year, then the other teams are necessarily 108 games below .500 in those games. They have no real chance. At some point, the rest of the country stops caring. This actually happened in baseball in the 10 years or so after the War. The Yankees, Dodgers and to a lesser extent the Giants dominated the game. It was baseball’s Golden Age in New York, but it fueled the rise of football in the rest of the country.

    Everybody — from the Yankees to the Pirates and from Mike Trout to Mark Kolozsvary — will do better and make more money, if game is healthy in the long run. Baseball doesn’t need just any CBA, it instead needs a good, fair CBA; if one “side” wins, then nobody wins. And that includes the industry’s not tolerating owners who don’t make an honest effort to compete over the long run.

    It’s too late for this year, but they need a mediator to keep them on track. The mediator needs to understand fully the nuances of the business of baseball, plus have some knowledge of collective bargaining. The mediator should use the season before the CBA expires to meet and listen to each ownership group, any player, player agents, Tony Clark and the MLB negotiators. The mediator would almost have a full time job for a year, on this negotiation alone.

    A good mediator would have prevented the sides from talking AT the other side, encouraged more listening and kept the negotiation on track. Done properly, this year’s negotiation would have narrowed to the major issues by mid-December, not in late February.

    This was a complicated negotiation, but as Don Corleone asked, “How did things ever get so far?”

    • Luke J

      I think you are 100% correct. I’m a mediator who has mediated many negotiations. It is very clear a mediator would make a huge difference in these negotiations. Because not only are the owners split with competing interests, so are the players. Both sides are made up of groups whose interests are actually at complete odds with other groups within their own side of the negotiation.

      • Old Big Ed

        I don’t think the Federal Mediation Service would work here, because it is too labor-management oriented, and I wouldn’t trust them to do the necessary work to understand the nuances of the businesses.

        I had in mind a small group of maybe a retired federal judge (some of whom are great mediators and some stink at it), a widely-respected big-firm lawyer, etc. I also think a female retired federal judge would be ideal, because she would be someone who knows how to control a room without blocking a discussion, and who could eliminate a lot of the machismo that seems to be getting in the way.

    • BK

      I nominate Old Big Ed and Luke J to mediate the negotiation.

      • Old Big Ed

        I would need to identify as a female former federal judge to be good at it.

      • Grand Salami

        There must be a better way of doing it. A standing mediation commission even imbued with limited arbitration powers that could proactively work segments of the CBA and update it continuously would make expirations far less tumultuous.

        Stephen Breyer has nothing to do after this summer. It has to be a highly insulated group and the terms would need to be staggered for continuity. No life time appointments but 6 year terms would be ideal.

        Manfred lacks the mojo or spine to assert this level of control over the owners. And there is no guarantee the players wouldn’t rebel. Their approach seems simplistic.

        As other have said. True revenue sharing is the future of the sport. The same reasons baseball has more costs for owners are the same reasons revenue is tougher to grasp.

        A single system of accounting for every team which was made available to the MLBPA would create the necessary transparency. It would be a Herculean task but a contracting job for an accounting firm to bid on creating this model would keep the cost from ballooning and eventually accomplish it.

  11. Steve D

    Why don’t both sides agree to play this year and keep bargaining. I get the owners side that they are worried players will strike in August (just like they did in 94). So is there anything from stopping both sides to play under last years CBA and the players agree to not strike and play the playoffs for 2022 only. Basically owners agree to lift the lockout in lieu of players signing a contract they will play out the 2022 season through the playoffs.

    • Doug Gray

      The only thing stopping them from playing under the previous CBA terms is the owners locking the players out. If they lift the lockout the terms from the previous CBA still stand, with the one exception of the luxury tax threshold. In the last CBA it was written in there that when that CBA expired, so did the luxury tax threshold and penalties and those would have to be entirely renegotiated and agreed upon.

      This seems to be the biggest thing, more so than the worry of a strike IMO, because there are some owners who absolutely want no part of Steve Cohen spending $350M this year on payroll and without any limits and penalties they are terrified that he’ll do just that and make them look like bad. Andy Martino of SNY reported this morning that there were some owners who didn’t want the luxury tax to go up one penny in the new deal, but were eventually convinced to allow it to go up $10M (link https://twitter.com/martinonyc/status/1499423011606310912).

    • Luke J

      The players would never agree to play under the current CBA and agree not to strike for the whole season. As much as Doug wants to paint the owners as cold, selfish bullies for locking the players out, and the players as victims who only want to be treated fairly and play ball, the fact of the matter is that a mid-season strike would be the best possible leverage the players could ever have. There is a 0% chance that the players would agree to not strike.

      • Doug Gray

        Why didn’t the players go on strike in the middle of 1995? Why didn’t they do it in the middle of 1996? That would have brought them tons of leverage, right? Both seasons were played under the rules of a previous CBA while the two sides continued to work on a new one.

    • BK

      Doug is spot on. The CBT language is almost like a little poison pill in the current CBA beyond the strike history.

      There are a couple of factors, too. If your MLBPA and see your share of overall revenues declining, you really aren’t interested in continuing the status quo. I think that’s understandable. Also, if you can’t agree now, what’s going to change over the course of the season to bring the two sides together?

      The time where this would have been more plausible would have been during or right after the 2020, COVID-impacted season. COVID has introduced more uncertainty into future revenues than has been reported. Think back a couple of months to the number of bowl games canceled as Omicron spiked in December and January. This is on top of the billions lost in 2020. That said, I don’t think there’s enough good will for the two sides to extend the 2016 CBA even if both were convinced, they might be able to get a better deal by waiting a year.

  12. Indydoug

    Agree with your basic premise that the owners’ lock-out is not required nor necessary, but it would have been FOOLISH for the owners to not impose one. That would have given huge leverage to the players allowing them to operate under last CBA, start the season and then strike at the most opportune time for them (like they did in the past). I’m sure you understand that legal strategy. To not point that out, IMHO, shows your players’ bias.

  13. Jimbo44CN

    Watching the press conference by the players yesterday you would think they were coal miners asking for better working conditions and medical help for black lung.
    Hostility is all I picked up, and having the multi multi millionaire Scherzer sitting there is ridiculous. Believe me, I am not against unions. Having worked in a non union industry and watched union busting at its worst, I am sympathetic, but this is ridiculous and these players are not your typical union members.

  14. Chris

    “and to be clear, this is not something that must be done as lifting the lockout would simply mean that they would operate under the same rules as the previous CBA with the exception of the luxury tax existing as it was written into the last one that when that CBA expires that it would not carry forward”

    Nice opinion piece, because it certainly wasn’t news worthy. I get it, you are on the side of the players in this, but at least try and be unbiassed. For the good of baseball, of course the lockout had to be done. without the luxury tax no longer in play, this winter would have seen the best players available on the free agent market, most all go to the richest teams (furthering the disparity between the have’s and the have not’s), and there would have been no consequences for it. Then negotiations would have been even tougher, because the rich teams would never accept being punished for something they did prior to the new negotiated deal. Why would any side go into negotiations like this with one hand tied behind their backs?

      • Chris

        My pleasure Doug. Don’t get me wrong. I think you do an excellent job, and love this site, but you aren’t doing yourself any good by writing opinion pieces and trying to pass them off as something other than that.

      • TR

        I see nothing wrong for a very baseball knowledgeable person like Doug to express his opinion. Frankly, that’s a reason for me to pay attention to this excellent blog regarding my favorite team. The postponement of Opening Day, a symbol of Spring, is another element in the current state of world affairs.

  15. DataDumpster

    I respect anyone who does some analysis and gives an opinion on the situation, especially the moderator. Isn’t that what we are expected to do in most other areas of life that affect our well being and interests? However, the minutia of all these scenarios and histrionics leave me with just a loss of interest with desire to find other avenues for enjoying the game of baseball. Are they going to cue up the Korean league like they did a couple of years ago? Once the season gets going again, we can then debate how all the free agents fared in all but impossible timelines for the GMs, and then remark about how many players are carrying the Moose back end or getting injured (once again). After that, we can complain that Krall didn’t get any good trades completed and look forward to David Bell’s post pressers about how hard the team is working through the difficulties caused by all this mess. Blah!

  16. Alex

    Man, I was hoping to break out my spray charts, OBP excel sheet and my launch angle calculation modulator. Instead, Ive got to keep the gross/net margin calculator macros and contract analyzer open.

    If Jonathon India isn’t standing in the batters box, what’s even the point of all this?

  17. Rednat

    i think it is interesting that Minor league baseball is allowed to continue. not sure if that was the case during previous work stoppages. i simply don’t remember.

    there were a couple of comments about scab/replacement players. you better believe the owners are thinking about this and will be closely watching the attendance numbers of these minor league games.

    i think the mlb players have to be careful not to overplay their hand. this isn’t the mid 1990’s when the game was actually fun!. major league baseball has grown quite boring and i think even the most loyal fan would agree with this.

    I usually go to about 20 reds games and 10-12 minor league games a year and I have to tell you the minor league games have become a much more appealing experience over the past decade. part of the problem is that the reds usually lose when i go and maybe my observation would be different if we were a winning franchise but there are other factors too.

    the minor league players are younger, faster, more energetic. so many players in the majors just look old ,tired , bloated, and slow out there, like their bodies are already broken down. i remember Zach Cozart HOBBLING down the first base line and Suarez and Winker just taking leisurely strolls around the bases. you NEVER see that in the minors!

    i never see a shift in the minors, there is no goofy instant replay, the pace is faster. there is bunting, stolen bases, hit and runs. it reminds of the baseball i knew when i was a younger.

    honestly when i found out that minor league ball would be played this year i kind of lost interest in the mlb negotiations to be honest. interesting chess move by the owners/

    • JayTheRed

      I have to agree some of the best and most entertaining games I have seen the past 5 years of baseball have literally been minor league AA games.

      Don’t get me wrong though there were some fun games at the MLB level shockingly too. But your right overall it seems pretty slow and the same show most days Guy hits home run guy walks guy strikes out.

      Really miss the days when singles, doubles and steals were almost as exciting as a home run.

      Also, While I am at it. Bring the fans closer to the game. With all the safety nets and security now do some fields need to have such huge foul area? Plus the fans might get more baseballs to take home with all the pop-up foul balls.

  18. Hanawi

    Sources: Angels, Diamondbacks, Reds and Tigers owners opposed MLB luxury tax increase to $220 million. MLB also proposed including player meal money in calculation of luxury tax, which irked players. – From Evan Drellich of the Athletic

    Reds may need a new ownership group regardless of how this ends up.

    • Old Big Ed

      The Reds and Angels don’t at first blush seem to have a lot in common. Angel’s owner Arte Moreno was one of 11 children, growing up in Tucson. He fought in Vietnam out of high school, then after college worked his way up to an ownership interest in a billboard company, which they sold in the late 90s for $8 billion. Moreno is a billionaire, but no silver-spooner.

      The Angels are in a big market and have several high-dollar contracts — Trout, Rondon, Syndergaard, Justin Upton, Iglesias, for example — and of course will need to spend bigly to retain Ohtani. Plus, the Angels need to buy some starting pitching, else the money they’ve spent on Trout, Rendon etc. is wasted. So, I could see where Moreno believes that the Angels payroll will be over $220 million for the foreseeable future and where he doesn’t want to pay the tax, especially as a the B-team in the Los Angeles market.

      On the other hand, Moreno’s woes are self-inflicted. Rendon was a bad signing. Perhaps the Angels should have traded Trout a year from free agency. The farm system hasn’t produced much of anything since Trout 10 years ago. And they clearly have some clubhouse issues, given the testimony in the Tyler Skaggs trial that at least 4 players were getting some type of illegal drugs from an Angels’ front-office employee. Moreno just needs to run his business better. (I have no doubt that Moreno is good with losing a month of the season, in his circumstances. I don’t think many owners are in that boat, though.)

      The Reds, on the other hand, are the prototypical “small market” team, that doesn’t want teams in LA, Chicago, New York, etc. paying so much that the Reds can compete only when the stars align just right. (I understand that some will argue that the Reds COULD spend more if an owner wanted to. The point here is what current ownership believes it can do with its payroll.)

      The negotiators ought to be able to thread the needle here to get this resolved. Why not (say) a smaller penalty of maybe 5-8% for being over $228, with larger penalties kicking in as the overage gets higher and higher. They already do this, with the initial penalty being 20%.

      Or, given that the whole idea of the CBT was to prevent a rogue owner from regularly spending 50% more than the other teams — which all sides agreed would disturb the competitive balance — maybe consider a one-year exemption for any team that goes over, which the priviso that if that team goes over again in either of the next two years, the exempted team would have to fork over the forgiven tax.

      Or anything. Revenues are going to lag again this year for a lot of teams, in part due to Covid and maybe more so to baseball’s malaise. No matter what they set the CBT for this year, there will be few teams that come close to it, and that will likely be true for next year, too. Losing games (and business momentum) over a nothing burger is insane.

      Try. To. Be. Creative.