MLB and its players and owners now have just five more days to reach a new collective bargaining agreement before the season will become guaranteed to start late.
But while the two sides continue to disagree over key issues, players and owners will now begin to meet for five or six hours per day in hopes of coming to an agreement. The start of Spring Training has already been pushed back an extra week to March 5.
All this simply goes to show that both sides are at fault for the incredibly long and arduous negotiation process going on. The lack of urgency from both sides is especially concerning.
Neither side has been quiet about what rules of the game they do and don’t want changed in recent years. Therefore, most demands were not secret and it just makes it even more amazing it took these two sides this long to start talking to each other.
At face value, what the players want seems understandable. They want a draft lottery for the top eight picks to ensure that teams don’t tank for the top pick, a major league raise to the minimum salary and minor-league salaries increased, among other issues.
There are other issues as well, and it can also be argued that the owners aren’t willing to go anywhere near the degree to which the players are demanding these changes. In other words, the owners may agree with the players on principle on some issues, but not on how much or how big of a change should be made.
The owners can certainly do more to ensure players are paid better and paid sooner, and no owner should be allowed to see the team they own play the worst baseball possible for four or five years. However, the players have demands for such drastic changes that they might be shooting themselves, the league, the fans and their ultimate goals, in the foot by trying to have all of these changes implemented exactly how they want them right now.
It’s clear from the lack of progress made in the negotiations that the players are moving too fast to have their laundry list of agenda items addressed. All this is to say — it might be the end of February, but neither side is anywhere near a compromise or an agreement with the other.
The first group that takes a big hit from the lack of progress and two months of nonexistent communication is, of course, the fans. Fans may not have any spring training games to watch in person or on TV from until April or later. And any fan who has bought season tickets, or just wants to go to a game at the beginning of the season, may not be able to do so with the start of the season unknown.
However, the most mind-boggling part of this is that the players and the owner — the two sides seemingly at war with each other over this CBA — are set to lose even bigger thanks to their inactivity.
The official opening day for the league was originally March 31. As soon as the league starts considering pushing opening day back, the players will start to run the risk of losing paychecks, which could cancel out any gains they make in the final CBA.
At the same time, the owners gain no revenue from ticket sales or stadium concessions, and fans get even angrier at both sides because they can’t seem to communicate.
It’s certainly a welcome sight to see hours of meetings and negotiations taking place every day now. However, negotiations should have ramped up far earlier than this. A deal is not close, the off-season is nowhere near resuming. One’s guess is as good as any other regarding when the league’s second-longest lockout will end and when the 2022 season will start.