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Hope for baseball this spring continues to diminish

Thursday’s meeting provides no updates, as players continue to speak out about the work stoppage.

MLB: Labor Negotiations
Bruce Meyer and Tony Clark can win the public relations war with the league in their sleep at this point.
The Palm Beach Post-USA TODAY NETWORK

We are 90 days into MLB’s lockout and two days into the first work stoppage in the sport since 1994, after Rob Manfred canceled the first two series of the 2022 baseball season on Tuesday.

Opening Day was scheduled to take place on March 31, but the earliest that games will be played this year is April 8, and that is IF the league and players association can reach an agreement within the next week. Cancelling the first two series of the year has shortened the season to 156 games (from 162), with 91 total games canceled thus far. As a reminder, Rob did not need to cancel any games at all, and still he could lift the lockout at any point and start the season on time — but as we’ve learned, the league can’t handle negotiating in good faith.

Not only did the league wait to negotiate in earnest until the last minute, it also tried to flip the script by saying the players’ “tone had changed,” essentially saying if there is no deal, the blame is on the MLBPA.

Players have been reacting to the league’s comments, especially after Manfred’s press conference on Tuesday, giving their side of the story and expressing disdain with how the league has handled the situation. Lance McCullers Jr. of the Houston Astros, understandably, had a lot to say about the notion that the players were the problem and holding up negotiations.

“It’s mind blowing these dudes legitimately caused these issues and continue to lie about it,” McCullers wrote. “Walk out on us in Dallas. Lock us out. Don’t speak to us for six weeks. Take weeks at a time to respond to our proposals. Clearly don’t care about fans, baseball or the game. It’s exhausting.”

When you think about it, it’s pretty wild the lengths that owners have gone to attempt to make themselves not look like the bad guys; if only they’d spent that kind of energy getting something done by negotiating. The players have not been surprised at how MLB has been treating them throughout this process, as they’ve had similar issues during negotiations over the last few years. Toronto Blue Jays pitcher and player representative, Ross Stripling, had similar remarks regarding Monday’s late night negotiating session.

Given that MLB hasn’t exactly been forthcoming throughout the entire lockout, it’s not surprising to hear these things from the players. Manfred spent 10 minutes on Tuesday dodging questions after negotiations broke down, even smiling and laughing as if this wasn’t the worst day for baseball since 1994, and blatantly lying about the league’s financial “struggles” since 2017.

Evan Longoria chimed in, essentially saying that one way to settle this would be if the league opened their books to simply show how much baseball has struggled, but of course baseball won’t let its bluff be called, because they would be throwing themselves under the bus. Manfred claimed that it was a sad day for the sport and that he was “concerned for fans,” as if canceling a week of games and then gaslighting fans on a national broadcast was the best way to make us believe that.

The MLBPA also held a press conference on Tuesday evening that included MLBPA executive director Tony Clark, lead negotiator Bruce Meyer, along with lead player representatives Andrew Miller and Max Scherzer. An additional group of players joined the press conference in support of the MLBPA, once again showing a united front. Clark conveyed how the game has been damaged over the years, reiterated that this lockout was instituted by MLB, and concluded that the league continues to ruin the integrity of the game.

Angels superstar Mike Trout offered his point of view of the lockout as well, his popularity alone making him significant voice for the players.

Miller and Scherzer also answered some questions, and indicated that the players are willing to endure a work stoppage so this CBA can be done correctly. The best part about this press conference was the fact that both ESPN and MLB Network pulled it off the air after a few minutes, essentially cutting off players’ voices — though, of course, we had to endure 10 minutes of nonsense from the league via the singular voice of Manfred.

There has been a lot of support for the players, although some fans still can’t seem to get past the “millionaires vs. billionaires” argument. This fight is over the fact that the players are the product, and they are too small a portion of a giant revenue stream. It’s also the fact that there did not need to be a lockout; it can’t be said enough — and it’s unfair to the people indirectly impacted by the lockout (like stadium workers, among dozens of baseball-dependent professions) who are unable to collect a paycheck as well.

Since the work stoppage began on Tuesday evening, the Players Associations for several major sporting leagues have also spoken out in solidarity with the MLBPA. The NFL, NBA, and MLS players all posted statements on Twitter showing their support, and advocating for fair pay and treatment that will only help the future of the game.

There hasn’t been much traction on CBA talks since MLB’s “deadline” expired on Tuesday. Representatives of both MLB and the MLBPA held an informal meeting on Thursday for about 90 minutes, discussing core topics and next steps for negotiations as more games are in danger of getting canceled without a deal.

While for a brief time on Monday it seemed like a deal was close to being signed, but it’s clear now how far apart the sides are, especially since MLB’s “best and final offer” was hardly any different than its previous, unsatisfying offers. To further showcase how distant a deal is from being signed, it was reported that four owners even voted “no” even to making a final offer … because it was too generous!

Believe it or not, the White Sox and labor war hawk Jerry Reinsdorf were not one of the four teams. Detroit, Arizona, Cincinnati and the Angels, take a bow.

Given that scenario, it’s obvious that if the league moves further toward compromise with the players, additional owners will shoot those compromises down. Without being open to even negotiate a topic, there is no way the lockout will be ending any time soon. There was another report of an owner mentioning back in December that he wanted to “break the union,” which is an insanely problematic mindset; while it may not be a popular one (at least not overtly), it illustrates the malice of the owners.

The amount the players are asking in some areas is not ludicrous, and some of ownership’s “gives” would be offset by the $100 million-plus additional revenue the league stands to make from expanded playoffs — point being, there is found money out there, on top of some already-ridiculous revenues the league is bringing in for a typical season. You know it’s bad when Bernie Sanders has to put his two cents in to further this point.

For now, there is only one week of baseball canceled, but it seems inevitable that more series to come will be wiped off of the slate. Fans are rightfully upset, and some were even protesting Manfred outside of MLB’s headquarters in New York this week.

Everyone just wants baseball to get started; that is something that all parties can agree on. However, that desire alone is not going to get a deal signed. It’s safe to say that you probably shouldn’t get your hopes up, and it’s unfortunate that the league has brought the lockout to this point.

Hopefully, both sides get back to negotiating and we get baseball back as soon as possible.