Sunday brought yet another meeting between Major League Baseball and the players union, but it does not appear as though things are moving in the right direction. Despite a new proposal from the players that reportedly included a willingness to expand the postseason to 14 teams, league officials were not pleased that the competitive balance tax thresholds remained unchanged.
“We were hoping to see some movement in our direction to give us additional flexibility and get a deal done quickly,” league spokesperson Glen Caplin said following the meeting. “The Players Association chose to come back to us with a proposal that was worse than Monday night and was not designed to move the process forward.
“On some issues, they even went backwards. Simply put, we are deadlocked. We will try to figure out how to respond but nothing in this proposal makes it easy.”
That’s a really difficult position to understand given the union’s shift in terms of the postseason format and a $5 million drop in its bonus pool ask, which went from $85 million to $80 million. However, that move to 14 teams includes a provision that would award a “ghost” win to division winners in an opening-round best-of-three series.
In other words, the two division winners that don’t receive the bye will open their series with a 1-0 lead. The idea is to incentivize winning a division when nearly half the teams in the league get a chance to play past the regular season. The league is not in favor of anything that would reduce the number of potential broadcasts, which is the entire point of adding more teams in the first place.
Despite the differences in key areas like the CBT and pay for pre-arbitration players, the league and union have reached an accord on some less important areas. One of those is the implementation of rules changes, which now need only a 45-day notice rather than a year. The league is seeking to introduce a pitch clock and enlarge the bases while also banning the shift to some extent.
Pitch clocks have been used in the minors and appear to have cut game time by 20 minutes or so, something our Moshe Wilensky would be happy to see in MLB. Under the proposal, pitchers would have a 14-second timer with the bases empty and 19 seconds with runners on base.
Speaking of which, implementing larger bases is meant to reduce injuries and is something that no one will really notice unless attention is brought to the change. As for the shift, well, that’s another matter. I’m all for limiting it by mandating that all infielders play on the dirt or infield grass, and/or that there are always two infielders on either side of the field.
Rob Manfred wants to promote offense, so this is probably the best way to do it outside of altering the composition of the baseballs being manufactured by a company MLB owns. I wonder how these rules will change the lines being generated by the sportsbooks that have a growing stake in the league and individual teams. They’ll have to have games first, though.
We’ll see how the next few days unfold, but it is pretty clear at this point that the league is following the same old PR playbook that seeks to slam the union’s proposals as unworkable. Meanwhile, the owners are trying to count meal money in CBT calculations while offering little movement in the lowest tier of the threshold.