Tipsheet: Baseball owners, players look ridiculous as unnecessary lockouts drag on | Jeff Gordon

With negotiations stalling on new collective bargaining, baseball owners are expected to cancel two more series today, further shortening the 2022 season.

The stupidity continues unabated. The owners and players have a contentious relationship. Neither side wants to take the first big step towards a solution, so an achievable treaty remains unresolved.

Spring Training, an annual fan fest for many franchises, was ruined. The opening day has been postponed to who knows when. Fans have been encouraged to find other ways to spend their disposable income this spring.

New York Yankees owner Randy Levine is as baffled and frustrated by his ongoing player lockout as anyone.

He’s one of the sport’s most respected leaders, so his perspective on the situation carries weight.

Who is to blame for this mess?

“Players, owners, executives,” he said Monday during an appearance on The Michael Kay Show in New York. “It’s looking really bad, especially with what’s going on in the world, and we’re all really going to have to try a lot harder to fix that because we’re all looking pretty bad.”

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Levin stuck to the company line, reminding those listening that baseball owners had taken a major financial hit during the global pandemic.

“Any perception that there is endless money, especially post-COVID, is not true,” Levine said. “You can’t pretend there’s so much money involved when there just isn’t any.”

However, Levine acknowledged that the differences between the owners and players at the negotiating table weren’t big enough to erase part of the season.

“It’s not something that could end the season on either side,” Levine said. “This is something that can be compromised as long as people are sane.”

Like everyone else watching this standoff, Levine envisions a deal that is “workable” with good faith negotiations. “We have to work this out,” he said.

The player side is angry about the advantages that the owners took advantage of in the last collective agreement. Levin cited an industrial relations truism, noting that they can’t expect to recoup their perceived losses with the new deal in one fell swoop.

“They made decisions that resulted in an economic situation that they are unhappy with,” Levine said. “We are where we are. It is not about correcting everything at once.”

And round and round we go.

Here’s what people are writing about all of this:

Dave Sheinin, Washington Post: “As owners and players squabbled over the terms of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season – a protracted battle heralding the more important (and contentious) one over the new collective bargaining agreement – it seemed less crushing given everything else the world had to deal with. It was always going to be a bastardized version of a baseball season, with no fans in the seats and artificial crowd noise being pumped into the stadium and broadcast. Under the circumstances, 60 regular-season games and one extended postseason felt acceptable, if not entirely satisfying. What is happening now feels less forgivable. After two years of sacrifice, of learning to renounce, the mind and body yearn for a return to familiarity and comfort. For some, that means bars, restaurants, music clubs, air travel. And those things, for the most part, are sitting out there beckoning you to return. It’s just baseball – good ol’ sweet silly baseball – that just disappeared when you desperately wanted to throw yourself back into his arms.”

Buster Olney, “The owners must rid themselves of the cancerous incrementalism that has infected their sport, something their extraordinary collective wealth should enable them to do. However, it’s not apparent that some of the owners are capable of doing so, given the petty decisions made in recent years, such as when the Oakland Athletics proposed cutting their minor leagues’ salaries from $400 to $300 a week following the COVID-19 shutdown -19 or the league’s decision to cut about a quarter of minor-league clubs despite an annual saving of less than $2 million per team. But the owners need to realize that even if they prevailed in a long-term conflict with the players and ended up with a slightly larger pile of money, their product would be damaged, perhaps beyond repair. Some fans would stay away forever, and player anger would linger. The owners need the players on board to build the sport through changes on the field and promotions. Whatever revenue owners sacrificed with a large, crucial concession to the competitive balance sheet tax would be more than offset by MLB growth in the years to come.”

Bob Nightingale, US today: “These talks weren’t so much about free reign or making rich players richer as it was about making sure young players were finally treated fairly. This is about the players who, for years earning next to nothing in the minor leagues, became stars after reaching the big leagues, but despite their valuable contributions were still being paid little above minimum wage. Yes, we’re talking Corbin Burnes, one of the best pitchers in all of baseball last season and winner of the 2021 NL Cy Young Award. If you rate Burnes’ performance last season – 11-5 with a league-leading 2, 43 ERA and 234 strikeouts and 34 walks – he was worth $59.8 million based on his WAR calculated by FanGraphs. If you also factor in his 2020 season, he was worth $79.2 million over the last two seasons. Guess what Burnes earned last year? Just $608,000 or just $38,500 more than the minimum salary. He’s made a total of $1.178 million over the past two seasons, which New York Mets ace Max Scherzer will make every five days on the job this season.”

RJ Anderson, “If the other side only cares about money, then they pursue that the best organ to attack is their wallet. The owners have successfully decoupled their profitability from the quality product in the field and from their gate revenue in recent years. What matters more now is the local television deal and the windfall that comes from the league’s playoff broadcast deal. The union has a chance to put pressure on both. While missing more games is not an ideal outcome for players or fans, missing a certain number of games could make owners uneasy. As Jameson Taillon, a right-handed pitcher for the New York Yankees, recently tweeted, ‘The actions of the owners have made it clear throughout that they have a number of games where they are still making profits/making TV money.’”

Marc Normandy, Baseball prospectus: “Who wants more. That’s what it will come down to. How fitting for the sport, right? What price is too high for the owners in their quest to crush the Players Association, a feat that would prove hugely lucrative in the future, not least because of the appeal it would create for new buyers. How much of the present are players willing to give up to create a better future? As with owners, we don’t know the answer, but the fact that the messages coming not only from diehards like Scherzer, but also from the notoriously silent on everything but the weather and Eagles Mike Trout, are focused on this next generation and The idea that the game itself needs to become more competitive in order to thrive the way it should… it seems like they know how to do it is all. That the union remembered its purpose. Which, in turn, means the owners just want the win here more to make them cut that out. We could go back and forth like this all day, but instead let’s stick with what we know to be absolutely true: It’s going to be a long spring.”

Jay Jaffe, FanGraphs: “The league claimed the size of the union’s bonus pool offer was smaller during last week’s hearings, hence ‘backward’; the union firmly denied their claim. This is the second time in a week that the league has used the word “dead end” to describe negotiations, making it seem like they’re flooding the zone with that term to set the basis for an eventual dead end declaration . This would likely mean an attempt to unilaterally enforce their terms, which in turn could result in the union filing an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board over the league’s failure to negotiate in good faith. Suffice to say, this scenario would create real chaos.”

“Anyone would love to get paid like Scherzer and (Gerrit) Cole, but you don’t see a lot of those guys. What you see are the guys who spend five or six years grinding the minors, getting $300 to $400 a check, debuting at 24 or 25, and being controlled for about minimum wage for three more years. When you see these young guys show up, and they’re superstars, they deserve to be paid like one.”

Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Corbin Burnes, opposite USA Today.

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