Matthew Silka, Staff Writer
Commissioner Robert Manfred looks on as he deals with negotiations with the MLBPA. Photo//Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post/Getty Images
Talks between the owners of Major League Baseball (MLB) and their Players Association (MLBPA) remain locked in a standstill after their latest meeting last Saturday.
The MLBPA, which is MLB’s players union, was not thrilled with the new offer proposed by the owners that was deemed to be “a good deal” by commissioner Rob Manfred.
The players took offense to the measly deal and are seeking more than the incentives MLB is offering, which include increased arbitration bonuses and allowing opportunities for MLB teams to earn draft picks by developing future star players that spend at least an entire calendar year with the organization.
Leaders within the players union are dumbfounded that MLB owners have not budged on their proposal, which includes on-uniform advertising and a 12-team playoff rather than the owners’ proposal of 14 teams.
Other key issues dividing the two parties include differing opinions on salaries for young players. MLB wants low salaries and wants to cut budgets completely in some cases, while the MLBPA is pushing for more comfortable wages and working conditions for minor leaguers and young players.
While the situation seems dire, there still may be some hope to be salvaged.
Slowly but surely, MLB has moved towards the players’ demands regarding the minimum base salary as well as the arbitration bonus pool. This is an indication that the owners are willing to make some concessions to save the season.
Despite this, the MLBPA is adamant on changing the revenue sharing system in the league. The players want lower revenue teams to receive 30 million dollars less than the other teams as opposed to the current system in which all teams receive the same revenue amounts from MLB.
San Diego Padres star player Fernando Tatis Jr. arrives at the park for a 2021 Spring Training game. Photo//The Athletic
While it is uncertain when the two sides will reach an agreement, it is evident that the start of the regular season will not begin on time. In a normal MLB season, Spring Training would be due to start at the beginning of next week. The lockout has provided a delay to that schedule with no end in sight.
Some questions that may arise are, “What does this mean for the fans? Where are the fans’ interests represented in all of these talks?” It is hard to say as things are not looking so promising. Fans, and especially season ticket holders, should be worried about the March 31 Opening Day start date as players will not likely be ready even if a deal went into effect over the next few weeks.
There are many parallels between this season and the 1981 lockout, which resulted in the league missing about a month of its games. Ultimately, there is no end in sight for the lockout at the moment.
Former New York Mets’ pitcher Bartolo Colon smacks his first career homer in 2016. Photo//Denis Poroy/Getty Images
In other news, MLB and the MLBPA have agreed on at least one thing: new, permanent rule changes beginning in the 2022 season if it does in fact take place.
Arguably the biggest change coming to professional baseball this season is the implementation of the universal Designated Hitter. This will lead to the end of pitchers having to step in the batter's box to take embarrassing and uncoordinated swings; the rule will allow them to focus strictly on dominating on the mound.
The universal DH was given a shot in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, but an agreement could not be made in time for 2021 to make the rule permanent.
The new rule will only affect National League teams, as the American League has had a DH since 1973. This will also save AL pitchers from having at-bats during interleague matches at NL ballparks. The hope behind the idea is that this implementation will create more jobs for national league hitters, as there will be more opportunities in lineups for position players now that the “nine hole” will no longer have to be occupied by a pitcher.
This historic change does not mean anything if MLB and the MLBPA cannot come to an agreement, as baseball games will actually have to be played in order for this to come to fruition.
Nonetheless, this small agreement on the universal DH ought to provide at least some hope for fans, as it shows that the two sides can at least agree on something, even if it is merely trivial. Will players and owners be able to put their differences aside to give the fans a season? This remains to be seen, but there is certainly a fair bit of optimism creeping in over the horizon.