TAMPA, Fla. — Aaron Judge is ready, but like all the MLB stars that gathered with union executives Thursday afternoon at a Tampa Bay area hotel, the Yankee slugger is waiting to see if the league’ latest proposal will be enough to move them toward an end to the owner-imposed lockout.
“A lot more guys showed up than I expected. That was great and just looking forward to getting this thing done,” Judge said after the gathering of about 50 players sat through a two hour update from their negotiations team. “I think we’re all ready to go.”
The players meeting, one of three that were held over the past two days in Arizona and Florida, came just hours after the owners concluded their own quarterly gathering. Commissioner Rob Manfred wrapped that up by painting an optimistic picture of having time to make spring training and the regular season start on time. The owners agreed to a response to the union proposal which they will put forth on Saturday when the sides return to the table in New York City.
Those comments were met with skepticism by the players.
“We’ll see it when it comes across. Obviously we have hopes that they send over something that is something that we can work with and a true start to the negotiations,” Former Yankees reliever and one of the union’s executive board members Andrew Miller said. “We haven’t seen that yet So….talking is good.”
Manfred said Thursday morning that missing games would be “disastrous for our industry,” and that he was optimistic that the sides had time to reach terms of a new collective bargaining agreement and have it ratified and players in camp in time to have at least four weeks of spring training and start on the scheduled Opening Day of March 31.
Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor was “hopeful,” that they would not have a delay to the season.
“At the end of the day, we just want a good deal,” Lindor said when asked about the lockout potentially delaying the start of the season. “If that’s what it comes down to, we don’t want to do it, we want to play the full season, but if that’s what it comes down to we continue to come to the table and continue to bring good things.”
Lindor, Carlos Carrasco and Pete Alonso were among the Mets players and Gio Urshela, Gleyber Torres, Luke Voit, Judge and Severino were the Yankees players who attended. Tyler Glasnow, Brett Phillips of the Rays, Didi Gregorius of the Phillies and Kyle Tucker of the Astros were among the nearly 50 players that were at the meeting.
Glasnow, the Ray’s player representative, said that it was a good “check in,” with the union members to update on where the negotiations stand. Manfred’s comments, which portrayed the up-coming proposal as “fair,” and responsive to the players’ concerns, were discussed in the meeting.
The union pointed out that Manfred incorrectly said that the competitive balance tax would be the same as the expired CBA and minutes later had to have a league spokesman tell reporters that was a mistake. Manfred misspoke, according to the spokesman, but Manfred has been a lightning rod for criticism among players and fans. On the union side there is distrust.
Miller expressed frustration with how the league had portrayed the negotiations to date.
“Accuracy is important,” the former Yankees and current free agent reliever said. “So when things are portrayed incorrectly, that’s a little frustrating.”
For his part the commissioner said that he did not take the comments personally and saw them as tactical in the negotiations. He did however make a point to say that he had done four CBA’s without labor unrest.
“I really should say when I think in the history of baseball, the only person who has made a labor agreement without a dispute (was me)…I did four of them,” Manfred said. “Somehow during those four negotiations, players and union representatives figured out a way to trust me enough to make a deal. I’m the same person today as I was in 1998 when I took that labor job. I just don’t know what else to say in response to that.”
The players would discuss Manfred’s comments directly.
“I better not speak for myself. I’ll stay out of that,” Miller said with a laugh when asked about the criticism of Manfred.