MLB is ready to cancel games over labor dispute, unless they’re not

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MLB and the MLBPA met on consecutive days this week, which sounds like it’ll be the norm for a bit as the two try to work through bargaining issues without putting entire weeks in between sessions again. Reports on the meetings ranged from the discovery that Dick Monfort put his foot in his mouth so hard on day one that he wasn’t medically cleared to attend day two, to the players being angry at not just Monfort’s crying poor, but MLB’s clear plan of pretending their awful offers were magnanimous instead of making bad situations worse, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman tweeting that “it’s good they’re talking” as he “reported” on salary numbers I covered in this space nearly two weeks ago.

There’s quite a bit to cover from these two days of meetings, and I will certainly be doing so between now and whenever the next sessions end up being. First, though, let’s take a look at a specific report, courtesy of The Athletic’s Evan Drellich, the meaning of which MLB is already saying we’re all misinterpreting.

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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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It is unreasonable to say the MLBPA’s proposals are unreasonable

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I have seen this odd reaction of late — in my Twitter mentions, in the comments to some of my work, in other peoples’ tweets I do not feel like engaging with — that the Players Association’s economic proposals are unreasonable. This, of course, lends credence to the idea that the players are in some part responsible for the owners locking them out, which they are not. It’s worth breaking down this idea of unreasonableness, though, if for no other reason than it will give me something to link to whenever this idea pops up.

Jomboy Media tweeted out a video the other day both sidesing the current lockout, and said tweet included the text, “It’s possible we lose a full month of the MLB season because of the lockout, and it’s incredibly dumb that the league and players allowed this to happen while the sport’s popularity was growing at such a good pace”. Now, Jomboy Media is relatively new, but they are growing, and have an audience: the main account I linked to there has over 125,000 Twitter followers, which isn’t nothing, and the personal account of Jomboy himself has over 400,000 followers — more than SB Nation’s general Twitter account, if you need some context. He used that space to spread misinformation about how player representation even works in bargaining and within the union, and considering his outreach… that’s a problem!

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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, MLBPA met for first time since before the lockout

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On Monday, I wrote about how MLB was still working on an economic proposal for the union, well after a month of lockout is already behind us. They finished up and presented this proposal on Thursday, and from the sounds of it, it is, like basically everything else MLB has proposed during the economic portion of bargaining, generally a waste of everyone’s time.

That’s not to say nothing was accomplished or agreed to — for instance, Susan Slusser reported that MLB proposed a universal DH on Thursday, and that, so long as it’s not “tied to something else as a bargaining chip,” it should be accepted — but otherwise, MLB didn’t address many of the union’s concerns, and presented non-starter solutions for others.

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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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On Rob Manfred and the “mistake” of 1994

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“We made the mistake of playing without a collective bargaining agreement in 1994, and it cost our fans and our clubs dearly,” [Rob] Manfred said. “We will not make that same mistake again.”

This line from MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has been bothering me since I first read it in the New York Times, back when this offseason lockout kicked off. It’s just so disingenuous, on a number of levels. Yes, it was a strategic mistake, in a vacuum, for the league to play without a CBA, because it gave the players room to strike when they wanted to — closer to the end of the season, to put the postseason and World Series in doubt and the decision to go forward with those in the hands of the league and owners. To try to say the fans suffered for this mistake, though, and to lump the clubs in with said suffering, implying in the process that it was the players’ decision to strike that “cost” these two groups dearly, is where the bullshit lives. The decision was not made in a vacuum: it was made within the context of its time, and was a calculated choice by the commissioner and owners that they hoped would forever tip the balance of power back in their favor.

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Don’t expect a quick resolution to the MLB lockout

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“When will the lockout end?” is kind of an open question at this point. There was very little reason for it to end quickly after MLB’s owners enacted it, no matter how much optimism commissioner Rob Manfred might have publicly displayed in a lockout being a path to a quick resolution of the issues between the clubs and the players. Considering the MLBPA’s reaction to the lockout was basically “this is only going to make us angrier with you, you know” and a bunch of rolled eyes at Manfred’s letter, well, there is even less reason to believe that things are going to be smoothed out in a hurry.

Which is fine, of course, these things should take all the time they need to take in order to sort themselves out, but it is worth noting that we’re in for a long winter. The chances of this being resolved by springtime aren’t necessarily high, and I’m talking the seasonal date there, not the spring training one.

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MLBPA rep Ian Happ spoke on MLB’s inaction before the CBA expired

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The players haven’t said much with regards to specifics about the collective bargaining sessions with Major League Baseball, but we got a little bit of insight on the pre-lockout process from Cubs’ union representative, Ian Happ. The Chicago outfielder explained to 670 The Score how negotiations went in Dallas in the final days before the lockout began, and it all serves as further evidence that MLB had no intention of actually attempting to work things out before the previous CBA expired.

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