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CBA talks melt down as owners seem intent on cancelling regular season games

The players once again made significant concessions, while the owners remain intransigent.

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Pittsburgh Pirates v New York Mets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Major league baseball players and owners met for the fifth straight day on Saturday, with the players making significant concessions on key issues in an effort to reach an agreement in advance of the owners’ imposed deadline of February 28 to start the 2022 season on time. MLB owners rejected the players’ proposal, choosing instead to remain on course with their plan to cancel at least some part of the regular season as a negotiating tactic to put more pressure on the players.

The players’ chief proposals included reducing the percentage of two-year players eligible for arbitration from 75 percent to 35 percent, lowering its suggested competitive balance tax thresholds by $2 million in three of the five years, and completely eliminating its proposal to reduce revenue sharing money.

Owners countered with a measly proposal to increase the lowest CBT threshold by $1 million, while retaining demands for absurd tax rates and draconian draft penalties for teams that spend too much on player salaries.

They also requested that the commissioner be able to unilaterally implement changes to playing rules sooner without players’ approval.

The owners were roundly condemned in the national baseball media for staying on course to cancel regular season games if their self inflicted stalemate continues.

NY Post: MLB labor talks take turn for worse because of owners’ intransigence

Rosenthal: Rob Manfred on course to fulfill his own doomsday prophesy for baseball

And Maury Brown, who writes for Forbes, sums it up:

The owners’ plan to cancel regular season games was put into action when they refused to make a counter offer to the players on the eve of the expiration of the previous CBA in December, unless players removed three of the most important issues from the table. They followed that by implementing a lockout, and in a separate move, froze all player transactions.

After claiming that the lockout was designed to “spur negotiations”, owners refused to negotiate for over six weeks as the season drew nearer. All the while, the owners have been demanding an even harder de facto salary cap by more than doubling the tax rates on the CBT thresholds and adding the loss of first and second round draft picks, knowing full well that this is a complete non starter with the players.

MLB owners’ course of conduct looks more like a rap sheet than an attempt to reach an agreement:

  • Owners refused to make any offer in December unless players took free agency, arbitration and revenue sharing off the table
  • Owners unilaterally implemented a lockout
  • Owners unilaterally implemented a freeze on all player transactions
  • Owners refused to negotiate for six weeks after implementing a lockout
  • Owners promised to present a counter offer to players on Feb 1, then made no offer, just federal mediation.
  • Owners proposed eliminating six year free agency, replacing it with age 29-1/2 leaving some players under team control for 10 years
  • Owners proposed no increase in minimum salaries over a five year deal
  • Owners proposed converting minimum salaries to maximum
  • Owners proposed abolishing arbitration completely, in favor of an algorithm
  • Owners then proposed eliminating super twos in favor of an algorithm
  • Owners proposed increase in minimum salaries less than the rate of inflation
  • Owners demand lucrative advertising patches on uniforms
  • Owners demand expansion to 14 teams in the playoffs
  • Owners offer $20 million to make the arbitration deadline issue go away
  • Owners are still proposing more than double the current CBT tax rates
  • Owners are still proposing only one percent increase in CBT thresholds
  • Owners impose a deadline to start canceling regular season games while still putting absurd proposals to the players.

The strategy is clear. Don’t bargain in good faith. Force the players to lose pay checks to gain bargaining leverage. Cancel many regular season games, just like they did in 2020, but still demand expanded playoffs. It’s difficult at this point to believe that the owners have any interest in reaching agreement. Their only goal may be to break the union and they’re giving every impression of sacrificing the 2022 season in the attempt. The players initially were ready to break off talks after Saturday’s fiasco, but instead collected themselves to give it another go on Sunday. But barring a miracle, the major league season will not be 162 games.