Please stop blaming MLB’s players for the owners locking them out

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The Players Association and Major League Baseball are meeting on Monday for the second time post-lockout, with the former being the one to call this bargaining session in order to make a counter proposal to MLB’s from earlier in January. The first meeting of the new year and the lockout gave us an idea of where MLB is at this point — they are pretty clearly waiting around for the players to get antsy and cave as spring training and the regular season approach, hence their lack of movement and seemingly purposeful wasting of everyone else’s time with their last set of proposals — so now we get a chance to see if the players are even a little bit in the mood the league is hoping for, or if they’re also willing to stand by their previous proposals. Or at least the spirit of them, which was about furthering player choice while tweaking the models that already exist to remove loopholes, cut down on exploitation, etc.

We’ve got a real “both sides” thing going on here, as was discussed here on Friday in relation to Jomboy and Jomboy Media’s whole deal on Twitter, but the independent outlet and namesake is far from the only one working on this sort of thing. Bernie Pleskoff, who writes for Forbes and used to be a scout for the Mariners and the Astros, took some time this weekend to very publicly misunderstand everything going on in bargaining in order to throw down his own “both sides” complaint.

Pleskoff spent a bit of time responding to people telling him why he was wrong with information that was also incorrect, but this is what started it all:

It is amazing to me how the Player’s Association and MLB owners and execs are failing to realize the harm they are doing with every passing day. Of course recovery is possible, but plenty of fans will not forgive this selfishness by both sides. Not this time.

What, exactly, is the solution here? MLB very clearly was not bargaining in good faith in anything but the strictest legal definition of the term leading up to the lockout, because what they wanted to do was enact a lockout. This was obvious well before any proposals actually hit the table, but once word leaked of what MLB’s proposals actually looked like, obvious got an upgrade.

On December 1, for Baseball Prospectus, I wrote about how you can’t listen to those who are trying to both sides MLB’s (coming) lockout, while trying to predict the course of events between then and later on in the winter:

Why is the lockout necessary in December, though? It will stop transactions from occurring everywhere except in the minors, so free agents won’t be able to sign anywhere until the lockout is at its end. They will still be able to sign after the lockout, so while things will all have to happen quickly, it’s not as if the teams were making moves to fill holes that these free agents couldn’t fill themselves. There isn’t really a reason for the lockout to happen at this stage, except as a mechanism to make a public show and to attempt to intimidate the players, or break their unity somehow by sowing fear of the unknown in their ranks. There is nothing at all stopping the league and the PA from continuing to negotiate the CBA past its expiration, without a lockout imposed by the owners, maybe saving it for spring training if the two sides are still talking.

So, we’re going to have a lockout imposed on the players by the owners, who, while not negotiating in bad faith in the legal sense of the word, are not exactly acting like a party that wants to figure out these issues that need figuring out. The lockout does not even need to happen, but it will, because, as the commissioner of the sport already said, the idea is to force a resolution. The owners want the players to feel pressured to accept a deal, likely after MLB’s public relations machine and its ancillary pieces with major platforms attempt to spin the narrative in the league’s favor for a month or two.

Which is to say, MLB’s plan is working at least to some degree. Some media members are absolutely falling for the idea that the players are at least equally at fault here, even though MLB gave them nothing in the economic negotiations pre-lockout, even though the owners are the ones who locked out the players — a thing they can do the second a CBA expires, without any of the kind of legal thresholds required of a player strike — even though the first set of proposals from the owners following the lockout took six weeks to be made and, as said, were a waste of time that mostly showed MLB was planting their flag outside the walls and trying to starve the players with a siege.

What, exactly, are the players supposed to do in the minds of these people? Just give in to whatever MLB offers, even though all of those proposals are attempts to create further loopholes and codify exploitation that as of right now is just considered acting in bad faith? Pleskoff suggested the players should have taken the $100 million salary floor offer, and that it would have increased spending around the league, completely ignoring that, because it came attached to a lower luxury tax threshold, it actually would have significantly decreased spending. I covered this in all the way back in August: this is not some new interpretation of the facts, especially since it’s not like I’m the only one who noted this problem at the time.

Here’s the problem: there are media members who, even if they believe they are on the side of the players, or are at least not on the owners’ side, still preach that conflict is bad, and labor peace is good, and the former will lead to the destruction of the game they love, cover, whatever. They say that their cries for peace are for the sake of the fans. A call for labor peace is a call for the status quo. It is a call for nothing to change, for nothing to improve, for you to go back to having games on the schedule because all you care about is your own comfort, and not how it is you even get the chance to be comforted. People who think this way might fancy themselves against the owners, but if they go into just asking questions or pointing the fingers mode like Pleskoff and Jomboy have, then they’re actually taking the side of the status quo — of the owners.

So. Following the MLBPA’s counters on Monday, we will surely get some folks saying once again that they’re pushing too far, that they’re being unreasonable by not moving on MLB’s side of things, and so on. That’s not putting the blame in the right place, though. You don’t come off as enlightened when you act like you’re above it all, and everyone besides you is wrong because you just want to watch some baseball. You just look foolish, and like you’re being disingenuous, or like you’re auditioning for a role covering labor matters with MLB. Read the room, and maybe some analysis of what’s going on while you’re at it.

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