As much as I hate to admit this, I have reported to spring camp, and my jersey is hanging in my locker inside the #TeamPessimism clubhouse.
Unlike MLB facilities, the doors for #TeamPessimism are not locked, and those of us who have gathered are free to leave at any time. The truth, though? As long as the MLB owners practice their substance-light version of performance negotiation and the gaps between the owners and MLBPA remain massive on key issues like the Competitive Balance Tax, though, it’s hard to see a reason to leave anytime soon.
FOSTER: Unlike after 1994 strike, MLB has no saviors this time
Wednesday was the tipping point. As some point in the past week or two, MLB had set a deadline of Feb. 28; a deal by then made Opening Day possible, anything after that and games would be canceled. The MLBPA disagrees with that as the drop-dead deadline.
Wednesday was Feb. 23, a handful of days before the deadline. The sides met again, which was good, but for the third day in a row, only incremental concessions were made, so small that they were essentially nothing. Certainly nothing of substance.
And then, this statement came from an MLB source, reported widely: “A deadline is a deadline. Missed games are missed games. Salary will not be paid for those games.’’
That’s when the chill ran up my spine, and I accepted what is going to happen, the long delay before we see games start again.
Let’s break down the Statement of Doom.
‘A deadline is a deadline.’
I mean, technically, yes, a deadline is a deadline. A spade is a spade. The ceiling is the roof. A baloney sandwich is a baloney sandwich.
But in reality, there’s a difference between a soft deadline and a hard deadline, and this is a deadline that literally didn’t exist until a few weeks ago. Plus, it’s disputed. It was created and released by the owners as a way to control the narrative, not as a tool to come to a resolution.
Remember, this is the group that locked out the players starting Dec. 2 and then didn’t offer a proposal for 43 days. It’s the group that has consistently bogged down the process, even arbitrarily classifying some topics as off-limits — that’s, um, not how a negotiation works.
And if you look only at the actions, not the words, shown they have no interest in starting the 2022 baseball season on time, barring a complete capitulation by the MLBPA.
Our way or the highway, players.
‘Missed games are missed games.’
Even though the first part of the statement is what made the headlines and tweets, this is where the Statement of Doom really delves into the doom part. Why?
Because of this, the follow-up.
Another note from today: In addition to MLB intending to cancel games if no deal is in place by Monday, the league doesn’t intend to rewrite the schedule. The schedule would simply pick up whenever games begin.
— Jared Diamond (@jareddiamond) February 24, 2022
The owners have no allegiance to a 162-game schedule, which is set to begin March 31. They do not care about playing a full season for the fans, no matter what Rob Manfred might say.
There’s just no other way to interpret that information.
And that’s new. In past labor disputes, schedules have been adjusted to account for delays.
In 1990, Opening Day was originally scheduled for April 2. The lockout didn’t end until March 19. The start of the season was pushed back about a week, and the schedule was adjusted so all 162 games were played. The final day of the regular season was Oct. 3 (same as the final day of the 2021 regular season, by the way).
In 1976, the lockout lasted well into March and camps reopened on March 17. Again, a full season was played and, again, the final day of the regular season was Oct. 3.
MORE: MLB can’t let lockout threaten Jackie Robinson Day | How fans can have a voice
Now, that’s not to say March 19 should actually be the drop-dead deadline this year. With more information about how shorter prep times in spring training — specifically, the three-week ramp-up time for the pandemic-shortened 2020 season — can lead to more injuries, neither side wants to squeeze spring more than absolutely necessary.
But that’s a big difference, between Feb. 28 and March 19.
And the fact that MLB is saying no effort will be made to make up those games, with an adjusted schedule or seven-inning double-headers, speaks volumes. Because …
‘Salary will not be paid for those games.’
MLB is speaking to the players: “If you pass our deadline, you will lose money.”
But everyone is listening. The fans are listening, and here’s what they hear: “You are not going to get a 162-game schedule, and MLB is unconcerned with this.”
That message, folks, is loud and clear.