MLB Lockout: The big questions team owners face as sides seek deal

Mar 4, 2022, 10:49 AM

MLB lockout...

Detroit Tigers fan Genna Perugini holds a sign outside of Roger Dean Stadium where negotiations were held Monday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

With the first two series of the season canceled by MLB, the question now is when and how does the the league and the MLBPA come to agreement on a new CBA and get baseball back on the field and end the MLB lockout.

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The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal revealed Thursday morning that a determining factor may be the calendar.

“Local television contracts generally do not require clubs to issue rebates to the networks until about 25 games are missed,” he wrote.

Jon Morosi sees the economics swinging in the owners’ favor the first month of the season as a reason why they may not being feeling pressure to get a deal done quickly.

“I really believe this is one key consideration for the owners here,” he said in his weekly visit on Wyman and Bob. “They look at the month of April and they say, ‘Wait a minute. We’re paying out the normal salaries as we would and yet we are not making the money in that we typically would because April generally speaking is one of the lower attended months and as Ken points out here, you don’t have to rebate or have a make-good with your television partner until you miss 20 plus games.”

The loss in dollars may be minimal for games missed in April but the bigger picture should not be ignored according to Morosi.

“The question is for the owners, how much of the negative press can they stand?” he asked. “How comfortable are they risking the future long-term health of the game in terms of fans that might be turned off by this and never come back? Because obviously we have a lot more entertainment options and things which occupy our time now than we did in 1995 and really, you have to weigh out those questions.”

While some in the industry think the standoff between MLB and the MLBPA could drag on for months, Morosi brought up another date on the calendar that he believes should be motivation to get a deal done much sooner.

“April 15 is Jackie Robinson day,” he pointed out. “It’s not just J.R. day, it’s the 75th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s debut. It’s a special day. It’s a day I always feel grateful to be part of baseball. It’s a day I am especially proud that day to be an American and think about what Jackie Robinson did through baseball and civil rights and the impact he made on our country. It’s a day of such pride and emotion for all of us, and to not have games that day because of a labor dispute, is from where I sit, just not an acceptable outcome. We cannot have that happen.”

In order to have baseball back in time to celebrate Jackie Robinson Day on the field, the two sides would need to come to agreement in the next 10 days to end the MLB lockout. A big hurdle will be the Competitive Balance Tax, which in 2021 saw a threshold of $210 million dollars before penalties kicked in.

In the current negotiations the union has asked for a threshold starting at $238 million with raises to $244 million, $250 million, $256 million and end at $263 million and the league offering $220 million in years 1-3 before going up to $224 million in year 4 and $230 million in year 5. Thursday night it was reported the owners were not in unanimous agreement on these figures with the Angels, Reds, Tigers and Diamondbacks believing they were too high. Approval of 23 of the 30 owners is needed to ratify a new CBA and there Morosi sees a daunting challenge ahead for the commissioner whose job it is to build consensus among the owners and get a deal done.

“We are at a time where haves and have nots in baseball even among the teams, that’s a pretty stark difference,” he said. “The teams that want to spend up around the level of the CBT threshold and those that don’t, the rich teams and the less rich teams. I believe this entirely, there probably is a deal that maybe Rob Manfred or Dan Halem could have put on paper and thought themselves, that yeah, this could probably work, and that might be agreeable to the union, but if two thirds of the owners don’t agree with him? It’s not worth anything.”

“Obviously, we are all judged on results here but I think the commissioner’s job of stitching together a caucus that include the Tampa Rays and the New York Yankees, and the L.A. Dodgers and the Miami Marlins and getting 2/3 of those people to all agree that this is the best economic path forward when candidly 60-70 percent of those teams never even get close to spending at the CBT threshold level that the union has described as a soft cap, that’s the difficulty of the commissioner’s job. He’s the one who’s out in front.”

The full interview can be found here or in the player below.

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