These negotiations are incremental and filled with animosity, as these things are and always will be.
Monday opened the week with another proposal in the ongoing fight between Major League Baseball Players and the owners. Multiple reports said the owners have returned with the idea of a 76-game season, further pay cuts -- but not as egregious as last time -- and a few other hair trims.
The players’ rebuttal was delivered with the news. According to USA Today, the players view this response from the league as “a step backwards.” So it’s another day and another ride on this merry-go round of discontent.
What the owners sent back this time at least operates closer to a possible reality. Half a season beginning July 4 was a logical situation six weeks ago. The main boondoggle here is how long it took to approach that setup. May was a waste. June is entering its second week. A July 4 start is all but impossible. They botched this almost as much as it could be botched. The only remaining downfall would be fully landing in the ditch, flushing the season, and then heading into a winter with no baseball and maximum bickering.
But, this is better, despite the players’ instant eye roll. The hook for the league is asking the players to take 50 percent of their prorated pay, with a chance to get up to 75 percent. The players have said they will not take further pay cuts of any kind. To have a season, they will need to change their stance. Fifty percent is too much. The 25 percent is closer. They will likely come back with something near 10 percent and a few other twists.
The owners provided a small give: they proposed eliminating draft-pick compensation this winter. So, no penalties for signing a good player. Those interested in Mookie Betts would like this idea. It also, presumably, could create more competition for his services and those of others.
Talking about the offseason now hints at what is to come. Baseball is on pace for a labor fight before and after the season. Then, the coming winter will be about the following winter. And, part of what is happening right now is about the winter of 2021, when the current collective bargaining agreement expires. It’s all twisting and grousing together.
The future seems easy to see: The winter of 2020 will become another free-agent mess, the way the winter of Harper-Machado was, because owners will claim they cannot spend following the coronavirus pandemic. Players will be irritated. The cross-section of 2018, post-pandemic negotiations, a slow free agency winter, and decades of mistrust will be thrown into a pot at the end of 2021. Enjoy.
For now, blinders are recommended. Salvage the season. It’s a scenario about the coming months, this summer, this situation. Not later. That fight will come. Deal with the preliminary rounds first.
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