Minor League collective bargaining has begun

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Well, it’s actually happening. There is a minor-league sub-unit of the Major League Baseball Players Association, and they’ve officially entered into the collective bargaining process with the league, according to The Athletic’s Evan Drellich. The two sides — the players once again represented by Bruce Meyer, the league by deputy commissioner Dan Halem — “made presentations for their respective sides,” which is how these things open, especially when there is no existing CBA to work off of.

It’s not clear at this early stage how long this process is going to take, or even what either side presented. MLB has been uncharacteristically quiet in the days since the two sides first met, which, I’d imagine, is in part because the league is aware they can’t try to blunt force trauma their way through minor-league collective bargaining the way they’ve attempted to do so at the major league level. If MLB decides to avoid leaking to their most trusted and reliable mouthpieces, as they’ve kept themselves from doing for these first few days post-meeting, then it’s likely a sign they don’t think there’s much to gain from it. Which makes sense: the whole “woe is us, you’re killing the sport” stuff doesn’t work so well when your partners in bargaining are asking for things like “a living wage” and “I would like my sandwich to have mayonnaise on it” instead of discussing how many hundreds of millions a team can spend on their annual salary.

Which is not to say that fans should get up in arms against minor leaguers’ MLB cousins when they seek what’s fair for their own situation, but the point is that MLB has less of a chance of turning anyone to their side when you’re dealing with players who are currently making poverty-level wages and receive sandwiches made with the remaining government cheese from the 80s on it. Which is part of why they also just gave in on voluntary recognition: the protracted public fight wasn’t going to end well for them, and would have merely radicalized more against them — more players, more fans, more media members. (The other part, of course, is that they had no weapons with which to fight it, but being doomed to failure hasn’t necessarily stopped them in the past, either.)

The one downside to this plan is… well, it’s not a downside for the proceedings, just for those of us who are used to watching these things play out. It’s been four days, and yet not a detail is out there about what was in those presentations. Are we going to be forced to guess and speculate, like some kind of wild animal? Are we to beg for a crumb of knowledge, a speck of rumor? That could very well be our lot, if the two sides are playing nice with each other. MLB and playing nice are often incompatible in the long run, however, so don’t fret too much: we’ll surely hear something about the progress, or lack thereof, once there’s something to be heard.

As said earlier, it’s unclear how long all of this will end up taking. There is no CBA in place to build on top of, not really, and yet, this also isn’t 1968, when the first CBA in pro sports was agreed to by MLB and the Players Association, and was purposefully short in both length and in its terms because the entire process of getting the players what they deserved was going to take time that only a system of trust and “see, isn’t this better than before?” could help with. The minor-league bargaining unit of the MLBPA has, well, the MLBPA to look to for matters of precedent, while the original MLBPA had nothing of the sort, and 50-plus years of CBAs in sports gives these players an idea of what they can be pushing for — they don’t need to sign a two-year CBA that gives them very little, when they have knowledge of what’s possible and what should be to lean on in a way that their forebears didn’t.

For now, let’s just be happy that this is even happening: that MLB voluntarily recognized the union and also didn’t hold off on actually meeting for bargaining for months and months and months, which is another tactic that employers can use to put off actually agreeing to a contract. Again, this is not to say that MLB isn’t waiting to deploy some annoyance or another, but they haven’t yet. You do not, under any circumstances, gotta hand it to them for that, but still, it’s nice to write one of these things where I just get to raise an eyebrow and go “what are they up to?” instead of “here’s what they’re up to and hoo boy it sucks.” Let me build up to that, you know?

For Baseball Prospectus last week, I wrote about the only rating system you’ll ever need, in a post where I connected reviews of Taylor Swift’s new album to initial critic reviews of masterpieces like The Thing and Predator to why it rules that the Phillies kept pushing their way through the 2022 MLB postseason. It’s free to read so long as you have a basic subscription to BP, i.e. you’ve given them your email address and can login.


I know things were a little quiet around here of late, but that had less to do with a lack of topics and more to do with my own well-being. I had to take care of my own health for a bit, so last week was newsletter-less both in this space and in my retro video game one — between the break and a brief prescription meant to end a feedback loop, I’m feeling better (or, at least, like progress is actually being made), so expect things to ramp back up around here.

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