Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) met again on Tuesday as the ticking time bomb that is Opening Day begins to run low. Now, with 58 days remaining until Opening Day, and pitchers and catchers scheduled to report to Spring Training in under two weeks, it is almost a certainty that Spring Training will not begin on time.
Representatives from MLB and the MLBPA met on Tuesday to continue negotiations with little progress having been made. While the two parties have met multiple times over the past two weeks, little substantive change has occurred as the 90-minute meeting was described as “heated.”
The Players Association did move the ticker slightly closer to compromise on Tuesday, cutting back on their demands in two areas. First, they cut back their $105 million requested bonus pool for non-eligible pre-arbitration players to $100 million. They also moved their WAR-based system (which is already a terrible idea) to allow players within the top 30 a year’s worth of service down to the top-20.
Those two issues are only secondary however as both sides remain far apart in both minimum salaries and the luxury tax threshold. But while the parties can’t agree upon the meat and potatoes of the collective bargaining agreement, at least they can celebrate progress on deciding if dessert is chocolate cake or flan.
Jesse Rogers at ESPN penned a well-thought-out article on Monday detailing when he believes it is time to worry about each step of Spring Training beginning on time. He believes that pitchers and catchers are likely not to report on time if an agreement is not made by Tuesday, February 8th. One week away.
While there is still a week by Rogers’ timeline, it is time to worry. The fact that the two parties have yet to discuss the main issues at hand and still have many secondary issues to discuss (designated hitters, ball manipulation, expanded playoffs, tanking, etc.) does not bode well.
“They’re using the time against the players right now. Everyone wants to get to Spring Training. We have a bunch of free agents that haven’t signed… All of these decisions have to be made and MLB knows that and when you force the time issue against the PA, that works in their favor.”Trevor Plouffe, former Phillies player, on Talkin’ Baseball
There is a lot of movement that needs to happen before the season begins. Even if a CBA is signed by March 1st, the season starting on March 31st would be severely rushed. Major League Baseball managed to get by with “Summer Camp” in 2020, but even that was a month-long process, and an odd one in that it prepared the players for a 60-game season after they stopped mid-Spring Training due to the onset of the pandemic.
Pitchers are not at the point in their throwing programs where they can throw full games yet. Batters have not hit off of live pitching in months. Players have not been able to work with team physicians, athletic trainers, and coaches since the lockout began. Rhys Hoskins and Zach Eflin are both coming off of injuries. JoJo Romero and Seranthony Dominguez have both been recovering from Tommy John Surgery. These players have had to continue their rehab without the expert care of team doctors and physicians. Setbacks are a possibility and could become an expectation if the team is forced into a rushed form of Spring Training.
And so we find ourselves here, with the owners using time as an ally against the players in a move that will only hurt the game of baseball at the end of the day. Unfortunately, it will not hurt their bottom line, however, as baseball has become exponentially more lucrative over the past several years. Buckle up, Phillies fans, it’s not looking good.
Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire