Here are a few - but certainly nearly not all - of the reasons that baseball has gotten to the point where there is a chance there will not be a 2020 season.
* The Major League Baseball owners and players negotiated an agreement on March 26. But now they can’t even agree on what they negotiated or agree on the language in said agreement.
* The agreement failed to address the economics of how the sport would return if there were going to be MLB games played with no fans, which was a real possibility at that time.
* The agreement failed to address how many games would be played. Of course, at that point, there was no way to know for sure at which point the games could resume.
* As commissioner Rob Manfred revealed in an ESPN interview Monday night, the sides had not met face to face (for instance, via a Zoom call) for eight days. During this time, they were writing letters to each other rather than having real-time discussions. Real-time chances to hear from each other and try to work with each other. Nope, they were firing off angry letters to each other and leaking information to the media to try and garner themselves a better public relations position.
Anyone shocked that approach didn’t work?
Beyond that, there appear to be factors at work that have nothing to do with the protocols and number of games for a 2020 season. This part has proven to be a big problem. Some feel there is player unhappiness with the negotiation of the 2016 collective bargaining agreement and that some dissatisfaction is directed at the head of the union, former player Tony Clark. If true, is Clark drawing lines in the sand now to not repeat 2016? Is there pressure on him to get it right this time?
Both sides know the current CBA expires at the end of the 2021 season. That is looming over everything. That will be a much bigger negotiation than this one that they can’t even get right. Both sides are already trying to position themselves for that battle and that isn’t helping them as they try to work on a 2020 season - a season unlike any other due to the pandemic. A season where the rules this year should be one-year rules and not have much to do at all with 2021.
Now this has spiraled so far out of the control that the players side is saying things like, “We demand you respond to us” by a certain date and time. “Demand” is never a good word for something like this. The owners now want the players to sign something to say they won’t file a lawsuit or seek arbitration and/or litigation later.
And you thought they worked a lot of this out in the March 26 agreement. Turns out that agreement was a joke. Almost nothing was worked out.
My take is that the owners have given a little more here than the players, but not by much. A player would earn more money at 80 percent prorated pay than for 100 percent at 50 games. And the owners offered to remove the loss of a draft pick for a team signing a top free agent next winter. So the owners did make some overtures here. The players kept insisting on 100 percent full prorated pay and that they would take no more pay cuts. Not mentioned is that their pay was not cut, but the numbers of games were cut by the pandemic. But in asking players to accept 80 percent, that is a pay cut in the latest offer.
In a matter of days, Manfred said it was “100 percent” that there would be a 2020 season. On Monday night, he seemed to say there may not be any season of any length.
This turned ugly over the last few weeks. At a time when baseball had a chance to gain so much positive news by returning and provide us with something normal again, the sport failed. And failed big.
We are all worn out with the constant bickering. And this week, we learned they haven’t even been having talks so much as firing off letters to each other. That should make all of us angry.
This is a sport some of us love dearly, not to mention depend on it for our jobs. It’s time for baseball to stop messing with all of us. Meet face to face, please, (or via Zoom) and talk to each other. Save the bitterness and whining and stop trying to win something, including the PR battle. If they spent as much time with actual negotiations as they did trying to win over the fans, this would have been done by now.
This time, Cal Ripken Jr. won’t be around chasing immortality to save the game.