Bargaining isn’t always about midpoints

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​I understand the impulse to think that collective bargaining is always a series of back-and-forth movements from your position, until you end up in a midpoint that neither side is satisfied with. “That’s how you know it’s a good deal,” people will say. That can be true, sure, but it is not a hard-and-fast rule. Sometimes two sides are asking for two very different things, and simply cutting the baby in half isn’t a solution.

Take the pre-arbitration bonus pool proposals between MLB and the Players Association, for instance. MLB is not opposed to the existence of a pre-arb pool, but they are completely against the specific instance of it that the union is pushing for. The owners want a small central fund that all 30 teams would plop what does not amount to much more than a league-minimum salary into, and then those funds would be dispersed 30 ways among the top pre-arb players. The owners don’t want to give the players anything, not really, but if it costs all of $20 million in 2022 to keep anyone from being able to say the owners haven’t moved on anything, well, that’s $20 million well spent, since it could save them far more than $20 million elsewhere if public pressure turns on the players.

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The PA altered a major proposal, but left MLB with an ultimatum

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The Players Association met with Major League Baseball on Thursday for a counterproposal, and the meeting ran 15 minutes before a slightly longer side session between lead negotiators began. We do not know all of the details of what was inside of the PA’s proposal — all of these documents are a whole lot longer and encompass much more than what we have leaked — but there was still plenty made known in the aftermath.

Let’s start with what was learned first. The Players Association pulled back on one of their proposals, and submitted a modified version to the league in the hopes they would be more amenable to that. The league doesn’t seem to be amenable to anything besides the status quo, of course, but the PA has to pick and choose what they’re going to stand completely firm on and what they’re going to give a little on, and it appears they have chosen to avoid changing their minimum salary plan. The arbitration proposal, on the other hand, which previously demanded that all players with two years of service time would become arbitration-eligible instead of having to wait for three years, has been altered.

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‘Conversation’ and ‘engagement’ will not solve MLB’s labor dispute

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You would think that being one of the most successful baseball writers with one of the largest platforms going would mean that ESPN’s Buster Olney had any idea what he was talking about when it comes to labor issues, but you would be wrong. If that seems harsh, consider this tweet from Wednesday morning:

The most surprising/appalling element of baseball’s labor situation over the last 6-7 years is the stark diminishment of engagement and conversation. It costs nothing to talk.

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Media, please stop falling into the traps MLB sets for you

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MLB’s owners began their quarterly meetings in Orlando on Tuesday, and, given the current labor battle, much of what was said to preview said meeting had to do with the current staredown between the league and the players. Bob Nightengale tweeted this, but he was far from alone in the sentiment contained within:

The owners have their quarterly #MLB meetings beginning today in the Orlando area. Rob Manfred is scheduled to speak Thursday. #MLBPA executives are traveling to Florida and Arizona to meet with players. It leaves about 2 weeks to reach agreement to avoid delaying regular season.

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Mailbag: What is the players’ leverage in bargaining?

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As we’re in the midst of a lockout, there are surely questions that need to be answered about the state of labor negotiations and the processes involved. I’m happy to answer what I can, so please, if you have something in mind, ask away: you can send me an email at marcnormandin at gmail, respond to this newsletter email if that’s the format you’re reading it in, or ping me on Twitter.

Today’s question comes from @ERolfPleiss on Twitter:

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MLB, MLBPA meet again for ‘heated’ discussions

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Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association met again on Tuesday, and if you were still, for some reason, holding out hope that this was all going to be wrapped up soon, allowing spring training to begin on time and, in turn, the regular season, well… you should probably stop doing that. I’m going to kind of bounce around a little today, so bear with me.

A whole bunch of reporters tweeted about the ending of Tuesday’s 90-minute session, but I’ll quote The Athletic’s Evan Drellich here because he described the feeling in of said discussions, too:

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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.

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Mailbag: The length of a CBA

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As we’re in the midst of a lockout, there are surely questions that need to be answered about the state of labor negotiations and the processes involved. I’m happy to answer what I can, so please, if you have something in mind, ask away: you can send me an email at marcnormandin at gmail, respond to this newsletter email if that’s the format you’re reading it in, or ping me on Twitter.

Today’s question is on the length of collective bargaining agreements, courtesy @DJSloppyJoeM on Twitter. Let’s get to it:

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MLB’s ‘proposal’ proposal was even worse than we knew

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That MLB’s final pre-lockout bargaining session was something of a joke where they didn’t even attempt to talk with the Players Association was already known: the New York Times reported on it in the moment, and the union rep for the Cubs, Ian Happ, referenced as much in a radio interview last month as well. Now, though, we know the depths of the humor in said joke, thanks to the reporting of ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

You need a subscription to read the whole thing, so I’m just going to quote this relevant passage from the larger story on the state of the lockout:

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Happy new year, MLB’s lockout is ongoing

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Just because it’s now 2022 on the calendar doesn’t mean that we’re going to see progress in collective bargaining anytime soon. Nothing has changed from mid-December, when I published a newsletter titled “Don’t expect a quick resolution to the MLB lockout.” It’s now January, so, as was reported at the time by Evan Drellich, the two sides are expected to discuss core economics eventually, but “discuss” and “agree on” are not the same thing. MLB and the Players Association might be closer on a few items than MLB’s staunch refusal to take bargaining seriously pre-lockout might have indicated, but there is seemingly enough distance on other issues that it’s going to take more than a discussion or two before things can be ironed out in a meaningful way.

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