Prefer to secure the strike in the season if there is no agreement
Chicago – While insisting that Major League Baseball focus on reaching a working agreement, Commissioner Rob Manfred indicated Thursday that owners are likely to shut down players if their current contract expires on December 1 without a new agreement.
Baseball had eight outages from 1972 to 1995, but there has been a labor peace since a 7 1/2-month strike began in August 1994 and forced the cancellation of the World Series for the first time in 90 years.
“We were in that way. We closed our doors in ’89 and ’90,” Manfred said. “I don’t think ’94 was too great for anyone. I think when you look at other sports, the pattern has come to control the timing of labor conflict and trying Minimizing the potential for an actual disruption to the season. That’s what it’s about. Avoiding damage to the season.”
Talks have continued since the spring but have lacked momentum toward an agreement characterizing the negotiations that led to deals on 2006, 11 and 16.
Baseball had a 32-day spring practice shutdown in 1990, and while the opening day was delayed by a week, each team was scheduled for 162 full games.
“Honestly, I can’t believe there is one fan in the world who doesn’t understand that a casual shutdown that pushes the process forward is different from a labor dispute that costs the Games,” Manfred said.
While the luxury tax threshold was $210 million this year at a 20% rate for first-time offenders, the administration has proposed a $180 million threshold at a 25% rate.
The teams have also proposed a minimum salary of $100 million, which the union opposes because it is linked to tax penalties at the higher end.
The owners also suggested replacing salary arbitration – for players with three but less than six years in the Major League plus a top 17% of service time between two and three years – with salary determined by FanGraphs WAR. The union considers that the type of salary scale has been rejected since 1989.
Players currently eligible to arbitrate will have the option of being grandparents under the current arbitration system.
The players, concerned with manipulating service time, proposed dropping free agency eligibility from six seasons of service to five and referee eligibility to two, as it had been in place before the 1985 strike settlement.
The owners instead suggested changing the free agent’s eligibility to age 29.5.
The teams rejected the union’s proposal for revenue-sharing changes, designed to benefit small markets and spur positive performance. Clubs proposed a restriction that a team could not select from among the top five in the amateur draft in three consecutive years.
Manfred, who was the association’s chief negotiator before becoming commissioner in 2015, said: “We remain committed, as Priority #1, to making an agreement before December 1. We understand, I understand that time has become an issue. This is a challenge. We have had challenges in terms of making labor agreements. before, and we have a very good track record of overcoming those challenges.”
Manfred isn’t surprised that so many free agents have reached agreements since the world championships, although the CBA’s rules for next season are uncertain.
He said: “We are very good at following the law. The law is that you have to continue business as usual even during the free agency negotiation period. This means that clubs make individual decisions about what is best for them. So that’s what they do.”
On other topics:
The Rays received permission in June 2019 to explore splitting their home games between Tampa Bay and Montreal following the expiration of their lease at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, which runs through the 2027 season. The Rays gave a presentation this week to the Executive Board.
“The board didn’t come to a conclusion on that, but in fact almost exclusively because of other business journalism,” Manfred said. “It’s a complex subject.”
The MLB gave permission for the athletics in May to explore resettlement options if they could not secure a new soccer field on the waterfront in Oakland.
They kept trying to find a solution in Auckland. At the same time, Manfred said, they are exploring Los Vegas as an alternative. They worked hard on both tracks.
Seattle President John Stanton, Chancellor Theo Epstein and MLB Executive Vice President Morgan Sword reported on the Competition Commission’s trials.
“The field timing experience in the Cal League has kept the owners very interested because of the success,” Manfred said. “And honestly, we saw some of the same results in the Arizona Fall League.”
The MLB is moving toward a new baseball scrub that will result in more complex surfaces, which is what many shooters have been seeking, especially the crackdown on unauthorized substances that began on June 21.
“We actually have two options in terms of tacky balls,” Manfred said. “There will be some tests being done during the winter. I think there will be – we will be far enough away that there will be some kind of live match, hopefully we can test in spring training and we can use a new ball next year. Maybe it will be 2023 instead , but we keep working on this project and we’ve made real progress. The trick is tacky, but not so tacky that it’s Spider-Tac, right?”
Diamond Sports Group, a subsidiary of Sinclair Broadcast Group that acquired regional sports network Fox, is hoping to start the RSN streaming service and has asked MLB for permission.
“We see what’s happening with RSNs as a problem to solve, but it’s also an opportunity to seize,” Manfred said. The clubs really support the strict measures to make sure we reach our fans in the most effective way.”
Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap
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