The latest labor development can hardly be called a miracle, but this move by Major League Baseball is an attempt to get the season started. It’s an underhanded attempt, though, and looks like something aimed once again at putting the squeeze on the players union in an attempt to break it and/or paint players as the bad guys.
Major League Baseball today requested immediate assistance of a federal mediator to help resolve the sport’s lockout, sources told ESPN. Under their request, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service would help assist with the proceedings.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 3, 2022
On the surface, it might appear as though MLB is simply acknowledging that help from a third-party is needed to cut through the antipathy of these negotiations. A really optimistic interpretation is that the owners are too prideful to cede ground to players and feel they can save face by having someone else do it for them. Both thoughts are probably incorrect.
Sources confirm: MLB has asked for federal mediation in bargaining talks. Would have to be agreed to by Players Association. It is a voluntary process. First reported @JeffPassan
— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) February 3, 2022
As Evan Drellich of The Athletic noted, players would have to likewise forfeit a good measure of control by agreeing to the mediation process. Do you really believe, then, that owners would have initiated this process if they weren’t very confident in their own position? Sure seems like the league knows full well an arbitration-type process will favor them as heavily against the players as it typically does.
By requesting a process that requires the union to agree, the league has essentially put players in check when it comes to public perception. Never mind that owners implemented the lockout proactively at the moment the old CBA expired, they are now seeking to cast the players as villains who are unwilling to work to an agreement.
Speaking of which, Drellich went on to tweet that the league has informed the MLBPA that it will not counter the union’s proposal from two days ago. That runs contrary to what owners had previously said, so it’s clearer than ever that this is nothing but a strategic move the owners know — or at least believe strongly — will favor them heavily.
It’s possible the union will actually agree to mediation, but that seems highly unlikely given the tenor of negotiations to this point.