It’s hard to imagine MLB owners won’t be the ones blinking in the negotiation


Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred may be just days away from announcing a postponement of the start of spring training. AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast


On the 71st day, I broke down. I wish the owners of Major League Baseball would hurry up and do the same.

Shortly after MLB locked out its players on Dec. 2, ostensibly to expedite negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement, I made the decision to largely ignore the entire jaunt. The reasons are myriad, but best summed up as: why bother? Even baseball isn’t dumb enough to kill this goose.

Since then, the NFL has curated a legendary playoff slate. Winter seasons have come and gone, with the NBA creating a particularly crazy trade deadline, even by its standards. We discovered, swarming and forgetting all the new things that made us angry.

And baseball played its part by spending six weeks not negotiating anything. A silence on which Commissioner Rob Manfred, whose camp instituted the lockout, noted Thursday: “The phones work both ways.

In this jurist manner, it contains just enough truth to riddle to the core as it completely misses the real point. This is also the time when my personal embargo collapsed. So, a summary of Manfred’s first major comments since sending the sport AWOL:

– He sees missed regular season games “as a disastrous outcome for this industry.”

– The three-week camps before the 2020 shortened roster resulted in too many injuries, so a minimum of four weeks of spring training will be needed to prepare for the season. With opening day scheduled for March 31, time is running out.

– On Saturday, the owners will make their second formal offer to players since the start of the lockdown, one Manfred called a “good faith positive offer with the aim of moving the process forward”. (As opposed to what happened before now, I guess?)

– Although there was little ground and less trust between the parties, “you are still one breakthrough away from getting a deal done”.

This all sounds great until you realize it’s largely the same things Manfred said when he shut things down. Even his optimistic refusal to state the obvious — spring training won’t start on time next week — is tinged with bitterness.

Not saying it on Thursday means that if he says it on Saturday after the players don’t immediately agree to this next proposal, there will be the inference that it’s just as much the fault of the lockout, as opposed to the owners who do the lock.

The first MLB lockout of the modern social media era unfolds in a predictable “see, it’s their fault” tenor that was worth ignoring from the jump. Especially when, I suppose, your only concern is that the games continue.

While I bristle at characterizations of this as “millionaires fighting billionaires for child’s play” – at a time when an industry is bringing in $11 billion in revenue a year, it doesn’t matter if it’s physics of particles or Parcheesi – I can’t deny that. Neither do the owners.

Damn, they’re counting on it. It is one of the best arrows in their quiver.

Manfred’s team knows you’ve lived or died with uniform colors since childhood, more than the rolling cadre of players within those uniforms and the heart of every happy memory. They know that if you wish, you can know the salary of each player; they do, in fact. You can admire their generational richness among the greats, just for playing this kid’s game.

During this time, their finances are a mystery. Which is the most logical coverage for Manfred, who on Thursday simply wondered if baseball teams are good investments, pulling off a real gem.

“We actually hired an investment banker, a very good one, actually, to look into this,” he said. “If you look at the purchase price of franchises, the money invested during the period of ownership, and then what they sold, historically the return on those investments is less than what you get on the stock market.”

In 1994, when “a minimum of 12 to 14” teams (in the words of Bud Selig) were losing money, a World Series was destroyed. In 2001, when he said the league’s operating losses were nearly a quarter of a billion dollars, there was talk of contracting two teams.

In 2022, Rob Manfred wants to tell you that new Mets owner Steve Cohen could have made a few extra millions with dividends and an index fund.

It’s quite simple. If team ownership was such a terrible deal, Fenway Sports Group wouldn’t form new ventures to find more to buy, and more than three MLB franchises would have changed hands since the end of 2012.

Heck, it’s even simpler: if the books showed the property was a bad deal, the books would be opened for you to look at.

Of course a couple are, not that Manfred et al. are going to wave their arms pointing it out. Liberty Media, owners of the Atlanta Braves, is a public company and therefore must publish quarterly financial statements. The latest showed an operating profit of $58 million for the world champions on nearly a quarter of a billion in revenue. Attention, it is for three months.

Toronto owners Rogers Communications are also reporting publicly. While not busting the team’s finances like Liberty does, following reports in November they were considering selling a share of the Blue Jays, Rogers said last month he had no intend to sell the team. Looks like things are going well.

Did I mention that league player payrolls have fallen for four straight years? That’s what the CBA agreed in 2016. As owners get richer, players get poorer. In a stratosphere beyond our reach, yes, but strikingly – the league’s median salary last year was $1.15 million, down 18% from just two years ago and 30% from its peak in 2015.

That the aesthetic quality of the game has also withered and feels almost out of place in this negotiation, boils my blood hard. But not so much as the clear-as-day knowledge of what’s going on here: the owners know how badly they’ve got it, and they’ve spent the past two months trying to pretend otherwise.

“The goal is to get a deal that we’re happy with, that we think both parties are happy with,” former Red Sox reliever Andrew Miller, who serves on the board of directors, told reporters on Thursday. the MLBPA. “I would like to do something. It’s a matter of doing the right thing. »

The fact is, they will. Manfred and his bosses, for all their faults, can’t quite be ready to die on this hill. And when his side finally flashes, we’re in for a treat.

A frenzy of preparatory action, months of planning and signing crammed into days, with the elimination of clearing draft picks for free agent signings and the inclusion (finally) of a universal designated hitter exciting the things. Every man for himself will, if history has taught us anything, wash away much of the bad taste of recent months.

“As angry as your fans can be because your team stinks or because you have work disagreements,” former Marlins boss David Samson said. World“All it takes is a competitive September and a playoff run and those fans are back.”

In New England, it won’t even take that much. We’ll be done rolling our eyes before Jackie Bradley Jr. does his first routine circus take of the spring. We just have to get there.

I suggest logging off until we do. If only to try to handle it myself again.


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