As a veteran baseball fan, I’ve lived through every work stoppage since the dawn of free agency in 1975. None have been as ridiculous as what we’ve witnessed since Rob Manfred initiated his “defensive lockout” on December 2. The league is trying to break the union, and both sides seem prepared to dig in and let the sport slowly die or fade into irrelevance. Isn’t it a pity?
The league wants a trench war and it seems the players are prepared to give it to them. The urgency to strike a deal vanished late Tuesday afternoon, and though the more hopeful fans are anticipating that games will start sometime around May 1, I don’t see that happening. My feelings are driven by my current apathy for the game, thanks to team owners. As far as I’m concerned, both sides should fight to the death, obliterate the game, and then let a yet-to-be-founded facsimile take its place. Certainly enough, talent exists to create a fan-friendly league with owners who want to profit the right way.
When it comes to Manfred, let’s stop calling him league commissioner and give him the more appropriate title of MLB czar and lead counsel for the 30 owners. The office of the commissioner was created to save baseball owners from themselves shortly after the American and National Leagues unified. After the Black Sox scandal of 1919, the team owners thought it would be best to appoint a non-baseball man to lead their national commission. There are plenty of adjectives to describe Manfred, but none as accurate as “non-baseball.”
why is he smiling pic.twitter.com/BYHFTlF1wG
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) March 1, 2022
While charged with defending the “best interests of the game”, the commissioner is always elected by MLB team owners alone, so he never has to answer to players or fans. Manfred is on more of a power kick than any of his predecessors since Ford Frick (1951-65) and is coming frightfully close to matching Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis (1920-44) as the worst owners’ stoolie ever. The “benevolent dictator” was charged with preventing ballplayers from forming a union, and Manfred has been charged with trying to destroy one.
Wars between labor and management are nothing new, so the five-component dossier to dismantle an organized workforce has remained unchanged for over a century. If you’ve followed the ongoing MLB negotiations you may recognize the tactics the league has employed.
- Delays – Manfred announced the forced lockout on December 2 and then waited a month and a half to schedule a face-to-face meeting between the owners and players.
- Promising Change and Extending Deadlines – In the same manner in which abusive spouses verbally and mentally torture their significant others, Manfred is on record as saying change is necessary, that a loss of regular-season games might cause irreversible damage, and that both sides are guilty of any failure to reach an agreement. The commissioner delivered the money quote yesterday: “The concerns of our fans are at the very top of our consideration list.”
- Forced Meetings and “Best Offers” – With about a week to go before the predetermined deadline to begin canceling regular-season games, Manfred engineered a marathon bargaining session. In hindsight, it looks like a move to wear down the union by leveraging attrition, presenting a final offer, and using the threat of lost wages to force an agreement that heavily favored the league. Don’t forget, Manfred also admitted a willingness by the league “to miss a month of games,” if necessary, in an attempt to force the union to move further toward a heavily-skewed compromise.
- Astroturf Campaigns – An article by Jim Bowden in The Athletic is probably the closest thing to anti-union propaganda ($) that has been published, but it’s a more subtle agenda that strengthens management’s side. Pushing false leaks of a potential compromise to insiders like Jon Heyman represents purposefully targeted campaigns designed to sway fans from one side to the other. I respect Heyman, but he’s easily manipulated by ownership. Another great example of this type of tactic was the whitewashing of MLB-owned sites at the commencement of the lockout, or any gambit designed to make fans feel as if they’re locked out, too.
- Requesting Assistance from a Federal Mediator– Instead of negotiating with the players, the union-busting owners requested to enlist an arbiter from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. The request for mediation is a tactic designed to illegally prevent the players from exercising their fully warranted negotiating rights as a union.
The impasse goes beyond the players and owners, especially if the league cancels the entirety of spring training in Arizona and Florida. The fallout and collateral damage extend to those communities, plus all of the stadium workers, vendors, support staff, and the local businesses that depend on game day to drive revenues. Baseball is a mess right now, and it seems both sides are nowhere near a solution.
Cubs News & Notes
- Marcus Stroman would like to see the league get rid of Manfred.
- Pitching prospect Jordan Wicks is showcasing a four-pitch arsenal in the Cubs’ minor league camp.
- The team’s young sluggers, led by Owen Caissie and Brennen Davis, have been raking all camp.
- Prospect James Triantos has forged an unexpected bond with former Chicago outfielder Kyle Schwarber.
Odds & Sods
“Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo” starring Bryce Harper as Lt. Colonel James H. Doolittle and Manfred as Tokyo.
And Bryce Harper has checked in via his Instagram story: pic.twitter.com/vt1omi5jV3
— Bob Wankel (@BobWankelCB) February 28, 2022
MLB News & Notes
The league sent a letter to all MLB.tv customers announcing that 2021 subscriptions have been extended indefinitely at no additional cost and will not auto-renew until advance notice has been provided.
Negotiations & Love Songs
Manfred issued an open letter to all baseball fans asking them to see things from the owners’ vantage point while indicating that failure to reach an agreement was not due to a lack of effort.
The lockout reinforces everything that is ugly about professional baseball.
Manfred may have presented a final offer that was designed to fail. The league’s insistence on bumping up the luxury tax threshold by only $10 million, to $220 million, and keeping it at that level for three years, said it all.
Tony Clark said that the game “has changed” and has “become manipulated” by the owners.
The league should not count on fans returning if a lengthy work stoppage ensues.
Today’s Baseball Jones
Apropos of Nothing
I’m already dreading the simulated game boxscores and accompanying recaps that are bound to find their way into my newsfeed and inbox. Thank God for the NBA playoffs.
Here’s hoping the Cubs find a way to bring back Anthony Rizzo when baseball resumes.
To the fans we will miss you most. To the younger generation of baseball players, this is for you.
— Anthony Rizzo (@ARizzo44) March 1, 2022
They Said It
- “We look at the competitive balance tax as a breakaway spending mechanism. That’s how this thing was originally negotiated. And… we’re not seeing that function as breakaway spending. We’re seeing it act as a salary cap.” – Max Scherzer
- “How unfortunate would that be if there was a group that didn’t want to play 162 games this year and give it to the fans?” – Ian Happ
Wednesday Walk-Up Song
Isn’t it a Pity by George Harrison – Mic drop.