As the owners continue to institute a lockout, preventing the players from showing up to work, it was announced that another week of spring training games have been cancelled. Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported on Friday night that games for spring training have now been cancelled through at least March 18th.
That isn’t surprising. There’s still no collective bargaining agreement and until there is a new one, the owners are going to continue to lock the players out. They could lift the lockout and baseball could get started under the terms of the previous CBA – but since that would also mean there’s no luxury tax rules in place, it seems to be a non-starter (the previous CBA had a stipulation that when it expired that the luxury tax rules evaporated with it, unlike all of the other parts of it in a scenario where a new one wasn’t reached and they wanted to continue to play under the previous one). Some team owners, including the Cincinnati Reds ownership group led by Bob Castellini opposed raising the luxury tax “even a penny” in the negotiations.
There are no meetings scheduled between the owners and the players today. The lead negotiatiors for each side met on Thursday in an informal session that lasted about 90 minutes. As things stand right now we don’t have a good feeling on how long this is going to last. The more optimistic seem to think that a deal can still be reached without a long(er) lockout. But there’s plenty of people in the industry who see things extending quite a while into the regular season since ownership can miss nearly all of April before they have to start paying back regional sports networks (that they mostly have ownership stakes in) for games missed. That allows teams to not play low-attendance April games, still get the television money for those games that weren’t even played, and in theory at least, not pay the player salaries for those games, too.
There are a ton of moving parts involved. After it seeming that the players weren’t going to consider a 14-team playoff scenario, that is something that is willing to be discussed once again. The owners want 14 teams because it’s going to lead to a bigger television deal with ESPN and when it comes to ticket revenue (and all other ancillary revenues from playoffs), the owners get a much larger chunk of those benefits than the players do. The players may attempt to use those extra two teams as their last bit of leverage to strike a deal.
For now, though, we’re all sitting around and twiddling our thumbs. More games are going to be postponed. And at least for now, everyone is waiting days and days to even get back to the negotiating table.