The MLBPA has managed to triple the minimum salary before

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For Baseball Prospectus last November, I wrote about the need for the Major League Baseball Players Association to fight to increase the minimum salary in their next collective bargaining talks with MLB. I’ve brought this up a few times since, because those talks will begin at some point in the coming weeks or months, given the current CBA expires in December and the regular season is slated to start in less than a month: it should be one of the primary focus points for the union, as it has the kind of from-the-ground-up energy necessary to ensure a strong future for the PA and its members, much more so than the current trickle-down-ish model where massive contracts for superstars keep the average salary up while, in reality, the league exploits young, inexpensive players en masse.

My suggestion was to triple the minimum salary, and the reasoning why that instead of some other possible plans, like reaching free agency earlier, is below:

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55 years ago, Marvin Miller became MLBPA Executive Director

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March 5 is a pretty nifty day in baseball history — really, sports history — if you’re into labor at all. And you’re here reading this newsletter, so unless you’re one of those sad people who hate reads in between posting comments where the cringiest part always comes after the “however,” you’re probably into the labor aspect of things. Anyway, March 5, 1966: that’s when Marvin Miller was elected to be the first official Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players Association.

Miller wasn’t the first choice of the players: that would be Judge Robert Cannon, who, despite his desire to be the commissioner of MLB and his willingness to do what the owners wanted, despite his advice to the players being to “make no demands, no public statements,” remained popular with the players. As his SABR bio points out, Cannon never even broached the subject of raising the minimum salary for players during his time as their legal advisor. He did not care about what the players wanted, nor did he ask. Cannon thought the players were lucky to work in the industry they did, and that what the owners gave them was what was right, so, from his point of view, his advice was to not blow that situation.

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Gerrit Cole, Zack Britton shed light on union priorities

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With the question of how long the 2021 season is going to be now well behind the players, they can, as a unit, turn toward the concerns of the 2022 season, and beyond. The current collective bargaining agreement is in its final season, and we’ve already seen the kinds of concerns the management side is expected to focus on. Even before the pandemic, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said that they would not be making economic concessions in order to get labor peace, and team owners and executives spent 2020 leaking about how much a shortened regular season was going to impact their ability to address any of the changes players would be looking for in the next negotiations.

The playes have been a lot quieter about CBA-related items, but with the last spring training before the agreement expires kicking off, we’re starting to see some discussion of what the union might be interested in. SNY’s Andy Martino shared details from press conferences with Yankees’ pitchers Zack Britton and Gerrit Cole, both of whom are on the PA’s Executive Subcommittee, on the subject of labor-related concerns they have.

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No expanded MLB postseason in 2021, but what about 2022?

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There will not be an expanded postseason to conclude MLB’s 2021 campaign. We know this for a fact at this point, since the health and safety protocols for the upcoming season declared as much, but the league certainly tried to make it otherwise for a while there. A few proposals were sent to the Players Association in an attempt to reopen bargaining on the issue, to no avail.

We cannot conclude from this, though, that there will not be an expanded postseason going forward. All we know for sure is that the postseason this year will look like it did back in 2019, that the 2020 expansion was, for now, simply a way to recoup some revenues that would not otherwise be collected in a shortened, fan-less regular season. In the long run, though, 2020 could serve as an experiment and framework for a more permanent expansion of the postseason. And we’ll know if that’s the case sooner than later, too.

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Why MLB won’t mandate coronavirus vaccines

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The health and safety protocols for the 2021 MLB season were unveiled on Tuesday, and much of the focus was on the lack of expanded postseason or universal DH, since those impact the shape of the season itself. What caught my eye, though, was that MLB would not mandate coronavirus vaccinations for players, and instead, the league and the union would strongly encourage players to get vaccinated. That seems like a policy that doesn’t go quite far enough, no?

It might be about as far as the two sides can get with the limited time frame they were working with to get the season’s protocols in order, though. MLB cannot force players to be vaccinated. Well, scratch that: MLB can force players to be vaccinated, but then they will face legal repercussions for enacting that kind of policy on their own. More specifically, they could subject themselves to an unfair labor practice claim by doing so, according to a labor and employment lawyer, Thomas Lenz, whom the Los Angeles Times spoke to back in November.

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MLB reportedly pressured the Cactus League to request spring training delay

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You might have seen the news that the Cactus League told Major League Baseball that it would like to delay the start of spring training in Arizona by 30 days, due to the high infection rate of coronavirus in Maricopa County. This news broke on Monday, and on Tuesday, a different bit of news surrounding the letter was unveiled: MLB reportedly encouraged the Cactus League to send this letter, because MLB could then turn around and use it against the Players Association in order to delay spring training, and then, in turn, the regular season.

The Athletic’s Alex Coffey spoke to a very forthcoming source reportedly involved in a Zoom call earlier this month, between Cactus League and MLB officials:

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Peter Ueberroth doesn’t deserve the passive voice

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The Society for American Baseball Research is 50 years old, and to celebrate, they’re putting together all kinds of lists 50 entries long. One such list is the top 50 Off-Field figures in MLB history, and I just want to start things out by saying I’m very into the idea of this. Seeing Roger Angell, Claire Smith, Marvin Miller, and yes, the San Diego Chicken receive recognition in the same list is a lot of fun! There is an entry that made me double-take, though — not because of the person’s inclusion, which is absolutely merited. But because of how they were presented within it:

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The MLBPA can still file a season-length grievance against MLB

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Evan Drellich published a piece at The Athletic last Friday, the focus of which was on Major League Baseball’s desire to delay the end of the current collective bargaining agreement because of the coronavirus pandemic against the MLB Players Association’s desire to… not do that. You should read the whole thing, but within was a note about the potential grievance the PA can still leverage over MLB, for putting on a 2020 season of just 60 regular season games, and that’s what I want to focus on at this time.

Here’s what Drellich had to say about it:

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The History of Baseball Unionization: The MLBPA before it was the MLBPA

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Major League Baseball players had few rights before the signing of the first collective bargaining agreement in professional sports in 1968. They didn’t get all of their current rights all at once, either: the battle was, and is, an ongoing one. Before the Players Association, before Marvin Miller, there were other attempts to organize baseball players against the bosses. In this series, we’ll investigate each of those attempts, and suss out what went wrong. Here’s part 1part 2part 3, and part 4

You would think the formation of what we know now as the Major League Baseball Players Association would be something to celebrate without the caveats of the previous entries in this series, but that proto-MLBPA was a mess. Obviously, things improved — thanks, Marvin Miller — but that all took time. The initial version of the MLBPA formed back in 1953, and it wasn’t actually officially recognized as a union for another 13 years after that. And it wouldn’t have its first collective bargaining agreement for another two years, right before the 1968 season began.

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