Opinion: Dispute between MLB team owners and players continues

01/02/2022 - The battle between the 30 MLB team owners, represented by commissioner Robert D. Manfred, and the Players' Association (MLBPA) led by Tony Clark continues to this day.

To date, no concrete agreement has been reached and the two parties continue to demand modifications to the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), which governs the current rules, salaries and finances. This contract expires every 5 years and, although in most cases an agreement is reached before its expiration date, in some cases the disputes continue until the next season is in jeopardy.

It is important to explain that when both parties do not reach a solution in time, generally the team owners lockdown the players from playing and freeze their salaries until a new agreement is approved. Another alternative is to extend the current CBA temporarily and resume operations while negotiations continue, and the third situation would be a strike by the players refusing to play until a reconciliation takes place as happened in 1994.

In 1994, a similar situation occurred that led to a players' strike in the middle of the regular season ending it prematurely and canceling the entire postseason including that year's World Series.

Let's remember that, as the regular season in the United States ended prematurely, the influx of MLB players to winter leagues in Venezuela, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic was enormous and we were able to see teams like the Dream Team of Puerto Rico that participated in the 1995 Caribbean Series. If you want to read about my experience with my dad in that series, be sure to read the article by following the link Panic and Reverie.

The truth of the matter is that we are just days away from the start of spring training and almost two months away from the start of the Big Show and the situation is alarming since the owners of the 30 MLB teams have maintained a blockade since December 2nd and the meetings with the baseball union have not achieved any concrete progress.

Since 1994, where there was a strike by the ballplayers' association, team owners have dominated negotiations leading to a decrease in ballplayers' salaries by as much as 6.4% since 2017, there being 417 players (62%) who have salaries below 1 million USD and 316 (35%) earn less than 600,000 USD while MLB revenues have tripled since 2001, i.e. teams earn more money and players less according to AP data.

The current pandemic has not helped either. In 2020, team owners signed an agreement with the players' association that in the event that 1/3 of the regular season was played, players would receive 1/3 of their regular salary. Although after the agreement, the commissioner and the team owners tried to renegotiate the players to lower salaries, alleging that the teams would lose billions of dollars by playing without fans and behind closed doors, and although they did not succeed, they did delay the start of the season, which led to a shorter championship and they were able to pay much less money to the players.

This sat very badly with the players' association who felt that, once again, they were losing in the negotiations.

In addition to this continued disappointment on the part of the players' association, it joins many conspiracy theories from players alleging that MLB modifies the ball as it pleases when a batch of important players approach free agency, making it less streamlined so that hitters don't get good numbers and raise their market value - as Pete Alonso NYM claims - and vice versa as in 2019 with a ball that traveled more as many pitchers approached free agency.

Among other accusations is that team owners collude to manage the free agency market as they please, not offering million-dollar contracts to players and even creating unwritten rules among themselves to reach cheaper deals with free agents.

Today there is complete distrust from both sides and that is what has led to the longest lockout in MLB history.

Among the players' demands are:
  • Authorize a designated hitter (DH) in both leagues to generate more jobs.
  • Move up the free agency negotiating period.
  • Eliminate the luxury tax altogether.
  • Raise the minimum wage.
Among the demands of team owners:
  • Put a clock on pitchers to speed up the game.
  • Change the arbitration system.
  • Lower the luxury tax threshold, i.e. players will be more affected.
  • Increase revenue sharing.
  • Delay the free agency negotiating period.

Will they reach an agreement before spring training or the regular season begins? If history is anything to go by, no lockout has ever prevented the start of any season as both sides would lose considerable sums of money. So let's hope so and we can have and enjoy a full 2022 season.

Today, Tuesday, February 1st, there will be a meeting between MLB and MLBPA. Will they reach an agreement?

What do you think?


Written by: Berny Rodz

Picture: MLB