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Spring games postponed up to March 5

MLB acknowledges the obvious, cancels play for the first week.

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MLB: Spring Training-Los Angeles Angels at Chicago White Sox Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

After publishing today’s update early on Friday, MLB acknowledged the obvious and banged the first week of spring training games:

The two sides continue to pledge to step up negotiating sessions — every day of the work week, if need be! — to preserve March 31 as Opening Day. MLB has estimated a minimum of four weeks to ramp up for the end of March, which places March 3 as a drop-dead date an agreement will need to be struck.

Now, back to your originally-published update, including new information on the minors and the lack of give so far on ownership’s side.

MLB CBA and Labor Update: February 18

Owners reduce bargaining sessions from give-and-take to take-and-take ... and want to shrink the minor leagues yet again.

On Thursday, the 78th day of the MLB lockout, MLB owners and the MLBPA gathered for the sixth time ...

... in a groundbreaking meeting that lasted just 15 minutes.

As you can imagine, there was no further traction on finalizing a deal, and it’s clear the players and league remain vastly far apart on core economic issues.

Sources reported that the MLBPA relented on their previous proposal regarding player arbitration, asking that 80% of players with 2-3 years of service time move into arbitration, as opposed to all two-plus year players as originally requested. With this update to the union’s proposal, players have raised the pre-arbitration bonus pool from $100 million to $115 million — a $15 million increase from previous proposals, and still $100 million apart from the owners’ offer of $15 million. Seeing the way MLB has been aggressively battling to underpay MiLB players (we will get to that), who is surprised they’re trying to limit pre-arbitration funds from younger players?

Evan Drellich also reported that after the meeting concluded, both sides’ lead negotiators, Bruce Meyer (MLBPA) and Dan Halem (MLB), had a 20-minute “candid conversation” about Thursday’s meeting — ironically lasting longer than the actual bargaining meeting. Ideally, all conversations from here on out will be “candid,” as time is of the essence with Opening Day looming. MLB has given a “deadline” of February 28 to work to get a deal in place in order to preserve Opening Day, and Jeff Passan noted that both sides are prepared to meet every day to make this happen.

Thursday’s meeting did not include conversations about the collective bargaining tax, minimum salaries, expanded playoffs, etc., though we can likely expect those talks to ramp up as we approach the end of the month. The players have made a few concessions now, especially on matters they have been passionate about (player arbitration and free agency eligibility), while the league the league has refused to budge on nearly all economic issues. Given how far apart both sides stand, I’m not feeling very optimistic about the season beginning on time, though I am manifesting that we do get baseball sometime in April.

Additional labor related news across MLB has been circulating throughout the week, as the league is seemingly dedicated to hoard as much money from the players as they possibly can. As a part of MLB’s most recent proposal, Passan reported that the league is trying to reduce the number of minor league reserve players a team can have on their roster: Currently teams can roster 180 players, but this proposal reduce that number to 150.

Brittany Ghiroli wrote about how the lockout has created a unique scenario of some players hanging in limbo, unable either to sign with a MiLB team due to previous big-league service time or to collect paychecks from the union due to lack of big-league service time. Does this make sense? No, not really. Because players in this realm are currently unable to sign, they are also mostly unable to get in front of scouts — leaving their upcoming season full of uncertainty.

Ghiroli also reported on the financial struggles that minor league players experience during the offseason, something Eric Sim wrote on extensively for us at SSS a few years back.

Players have opened up about the difficulties of having such low salaries, some even having to take on two or three jobs in order to make ends meet, or couch surf for housing, all while still spending a significant amount of time preparing for the next season. Players will have housing assistance from the league for the first time ever during the upcoming 2022 season, but there is still a long way to go to fix this broken system.

Michael Curry from the San Diego Padres organization shared a video on Twitter of his W2 showing the Padres paid him just over $11,000 in 2021. No one in this country can survive on $11,000 a year, and if the owners think this is a reasonable amount to be paid, perhaps they should test this out by attempting to live on $11,000 themselves.

White Sox pitcher Jake Suddreth also shared his frustrations on Twitter, explaining how he has needed to pick up an extra job to be able to afford necessities such as food, rent, and training costs:

There is simply no reason for a problem like this to exist, given that MLB is a $10 billion industry. If being a MLB player constitutes a full-time job, including offseason training, how is it any different for MiLB players who also dedicate their time training to be a better player? For a league that has such an extensive minor league system to develop players, it’s absolutely wild how poorly MLB treats their minor leaguers.

It will be interesting to see how each disagreement progresses, but at this point there are two things that remain clear: The lockout needs to end, and MLB needs to pay all of their players fairly.