Hey, Jerry Reinsdorf, your baseball team is in the playoffs for the second consecutive year with what looks like a lengthy competitive window ahead of it.
Where do you plan to go next, this winter?
“I’m looking forward to going to Orlando. I want to go to Disney World,” the White Sox chairman said before Game 3 of the American League Division Series on the South Side.
“I hope it happens.”
Of course, Reinsdorf's reference is about the labor uncertainty that looms this winter during negotiations to replace a collective bargaining agreement that expires Dec. 1.
Failure to reach an agreement by then could mean — in a worst-case scenario — the game’s first labor shutdown since the near-disastrous 1994-95 strike/lockout that wiped out significant portions of two seasons and the 1994 postseason.
And even if the shutdown isn’t as devastating or last as long as that one did — nearly eight months — contending teams in position to win now might have the most to lose with a short-term shutdown of business this winter, including the annual Winter Meetings scheduled for Orlando in December.
“I just hope and pray they make a deal,” said Reinsdorf — one of the most influential owners during the 1994-95 labor war, but not a part of the negotiating team this time around.
Reinsdorf said owners are motivated to strike a deal. And with more than 10 times the annual revenue in the sport than there was in 1994, it’s easy to see why.
“But it takes two sides to make a deal,” he said during the pregame conversation with NBC Sports Chicago. “[Angels owner] Arte Moreno and I were on the labor committee two labor deals ago, and I learned from that, that the other side doesn’t want to get serious until the end.”
Even since the last agreement was struck before the 2017 season, rank-and-file players have awakened to subsequent free-agent market slowdowns and salary stagnation (pre-pandemic) as many teams have taken turns essentially ignoring established-player markets during tanking-aided rebuilds.
Union leaders see hard spending caps on amateur markets and slow-rising luxury-tax thresholds on big-league payrolls as incentives in those processes.
Whether that has galvanized players for a more vigorous fight against those provisions this time around, “I know this,” Reinsdorf said. “I looked at our last offer, and boy, it looked to me like it was a very fair offer.”
That was the recently reported offer that included a payroll “floor” for teams, he said, but one that also included a lower luxury-tax threshold than any of the last four years.
“I’m not saying that they should have accepted it, but it’s certainly something to negotiate off of,” Reinsdorf said. “I don’t know; I don’t have a feel [for the progress]. I just hope it works out.”
As he spoke, Reinsdorf had other things on his mind, eventually settling into a seat behind home plate with a cigar to take in batting practice before the must-win game.
“Look, these deals get made the last week,” he said, tamping down the idea of angst this early in the fall. “It’s the same thing with players’ contracts in arbitration. They all settle the last day.”
There’s also the chance that — as has happened during some CBA talks of the past — the deadline gets extended if a deal’s not done by Dec. 1.
That would at least save that trip to Disney World for the chairman — if not keep his front office in the best position to strike this winter to improve its 2022 contender.
The sooner the better, Reinsdorf said.
“I’d rather be watching baseball than having meetings talking about why we can’t make a deal,” he said.