What’s in it for owners, Union settles quickly – NBC Chicago


Lockout FAQ: What’s in Both Sides to Resolve Quickly originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

so what now?

The New England Patriots are officially done playing football, and that usually means it’s time for baseball.

But the Cubs’ pitchers and catchers are spending more time on wordle and puzzles these days than making plans to report for spring training next month as baseball enters its eighth week since owners locked out players.

Since then, the sides have had exactly one face-to-face meeting, reportedly lasting about an hour, with no sign of significant progress towards agreement on a new collective agreement.

What does all this mean for 2022 — other than the fact that the Patriots stink?

Here’s a quick guide, in FAQ form, on what to look for, if not what to expect, in the ongoing labor dispute in baseball:

When did the lockdown start?

December 2, immediately after the expiration of the last CBA at 11:59 p.m. on December 1, after a brief, unproductive meeting between MLB union and property representatives.

A number of players have since signed with teams, but aren’t activities banned during a lockout? What gives?

Only activities between major league teams and major league signings are prohibited during a lockout. Minor league free agents are allowed to sign contracts. The biggest news from major league players since the lockout has been the announcements of Kyle Seager and Jon Lester’s retirements.

When do pitchers and catchers report for spring training?

Different teams set their own dates in mid-February. The Cubs have yet to publicly announce their report date, but some teams have scheduled Feb. 15.

There’s not much time left. Will there be an employment contract by then?

The NBC Sports Chicago bet line for a spring training start on time is – *checking notes* – off the table. In other words, don’t count on it. After last week’s ownership proposal, which reportedly went nowhere with the players, the ball was in the union’s hands to make a counter-proposal, with no specific timetable as to when that might come. You have a lot of catching up to do.

What are the chances of the season starting on time?

For now, that’s the hope most of the industry is clinging to — though that would still require a massive acceleration in negotiations to fill a big gap on economic issues like early-career salary caps, luxury tax thresholds, and current fuel incentives like the hard caps for amateur editions. From the way the talks have gone so far, the odds are somewhere between – *checks notes again* – slim and none.

So you’re telling me there’s a chance?

OK sure. If you want to get Lloyd Christmas on the optimism thing: If both sides are serious enough to negotiate in a sustained, good intention to actually bridge their sizeable differences over the next 4-5 weeks, they could salvage a start on time after a shortened spring training session.

What would be the deadline to make this possible?

MLB has successfully deployed a three-week “summer camp” to prepare for the 60-game season in 2020. Using that as a model, pitchers are likely to take at least that long, and maybe four weeks, to set up for a full season, given some allowances for additional roster spots early (positional players don’t need nearly as much time). That would set a soft deadline somewhere around March 1st to keep the March 31st openers on track.

What about all the unsigned free agents that are still out there?

Great question. Despite a spate of signings in the days leading up to the lockout, top free agents such as Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, Nick Castellanos and Freddie Freeman remain unemployed – along with local favorites Anthony Rizzo. Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber. MLB also has a major league phase of the Rule 5 draft to direct. That’s a lot of business to take care of—probably at least some of it before camps open. Either way, this could result in one of the busiest free-agent spells we’ve seen once an agreement is reached.

What incentives do players have to close a deal quickly?

Obviously get paid. And more than that, getting paid for an entire season — especially after players in their best earners lost big during a 2020 season of prorated salaries. On the other hand, the big league’s average all-season salary has fallen over the course of the last CBA — for the first time since owners were found to have colluded in the 1980s — and players have a very strong incentive to do so are holding the line to reverse this trend for their long-term collective benefit. That’s where pitched battles over deterring tanks and raising payroll thresholds for luxury taxes could get ugly.

What incentives do owners have to close a deal quickly?

One might think that potential losses measured in the billions would be incentive enough for managers of a $10-12 billion industry. By comparison, industry-wide revenue at the time of the 1994-95 work stoppage, which wiped out a World Series and about 10 weeks of regular season games over the two years, was about $1 billion. However, some reports suggest that many owners are not as concerned about losing at least part of the regular season at the front end when the weather is colder, the kids are in school and attendance is usually lower – especially with the odds an expansion playoffs that would increase backend revenue.

Can baseball afford to subject its fans to another labor war that will delay a season?

The short answer seems to be absolutely not. Consider that the pace of a game that, now for the first time in its history, has more strikeouts than hits is making baseball so difficult for many sports fans to watch that the Commissioner’s Office commissioned Theo Epstein and Ken Griffey Jr. to do the Problem fix problem and brainstorm solutions. The last time MLB attendance rose was in 2015 — with a 7.1 percent decline since then through 2019 (the last season before the pandemic). But Commissioner Rob Manfred is a labor lawyer who has accomplished the historically impossible feat of crushing average wages with the gains made in the last two collective agreements. And no matter how many times Marvin Miller turns in his grave or how many teams take turns refueling each year, it’s hard to imagine the owners having those gains at stake without a crisis-level threat.

Geez, can you give us a reason to feel good about the state of affairs?

How about two: First, this is baseball’s first labor war in the age of social media as a major public influencer, and the two sides hit that reality hard during ugly negotiations over pandemic protocols and pay in 2020. They don’t have to guess or wait for the fans’ reaction like they did during the 1994-95 debacle; You will get a strong taste in real time. And secondly, no one really believes that tanking is good for the game (no matter how much some owners like to take advantage of it in the short term). So if the sides can agree on effective anti-tanking measures, whatever form they take, that almost necessarily bridges most of the overall gap.

Is there anything new to look forward to at this point that will surely be included in the CBA?

An expanded playoff format will almost certainly be part of the new CBA, either at the 14-team level that the owners have proposed or at the 12-team level that the players have offered. And say hello to a designated hitter spot in the lineup for the Cubs, with universal DH becoming more likely every day.

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