Tuesday's deadline passes as baseball labor talks to resume Wednesday
MLB and the players’ union still had not agreed as of early Wednesday morning how to split up more than $10 billion annually, but the sides planned to resume negotiations later Wednesday, leaving a sliver of hope that the 2022 season would be played in full.
Yes, in full, as in 162 games — despite commissioner Rob Manfred claiming last week that he canceled the first week or so of play.
A 17-hour day of talks ended shortly after 3 a.m. Wednesday. An MLB official said the Players Association asked for time to speak to its executive board hours later before responding to MLB’s latest proposal. MLB held off on canceling more games, the official said.
Late Tuesday, the league reportedly upped its suggested luxury-tax thresholds, a key issue, to start at $230 million and end at $242M in a five-year collective bargaining agreement. The Players Association wanted to start at $238M and end at $263M.
New in this proposal, though, was an additonal level of penalties that seemed to mostly target big-spending Mets owner Steve Cohen and the Dodgers. MLB wants to introduce a fourth tier of the luxury tax — with the harshest penalties — at $290M, according to The Athletic. That is a figure the Mets would flirt with this year after another couple of roster moves post-lockout.
The latest lengthy day of talks, which included multiple in-person sessions in midtown Manhattan, marked another crucial moment in the owners’ lockout of the players, which has gone on for 97 days. Triggering that renewed urgency was the newest MLB-imposed deadline of Tuesday for the parties to settle on a new CBA, or else players would not receive a full season’s worth of pay or service time, a threat similar to the one from last week.
The tricky timeline included MLB apparently reneging on its public stance that on March 1 it canceled the opening two series of the season. Those games were not postponed and not rescheduled, Manfred said then. They were canceled, deleted, disappeared.
But that was apparently not such a concrete decision. Early this week, MLB presented the Players Association with a new ultimatum: agree by Tuesday, or else the first two weeks of the season will be gone, along with the associated pay and service time. For real this time.
With negotiations lasting into Wednesday, the alleged Tuesday deadline proved flexible, too.
If MLB wanted to make up two series, it could with reasonable ease. Most teams open against division opponents, which offers plenty of opportunities to squeeze in the missed games on days off or during doubleheaders.
That task would become far more difficult if two series became four series, as MLB said would be the case imminently, barring agreement.
Bruce Meyer, chief negotiator for the Players Association, said last week that the matters of pay and service time for games canceled by MLB could be negotiated. During the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, for example, pay and service time were prorated based on the 60-game schedule.
MLB’s late Tuesday proposal moved toward the union’s desires in several areas aside from the luxury tax.
On the pre-arbitration bonus pool, MLB proposed $40M, according to The Athletic. The PA asked for $80M with annual $5M increases.
The league is pitching a minimum salary of $700,000 in 2022, climbing to $770,000, The Athletic reported. The PA asked for $725,000 with annual raises.
Among the goings-on Tuesday were a morning meeting at MLB headquarters, followed by an afternoon session — lasting about 20 minutes — at the PA’s nearby offices.
With the labor consternation serving as a backdrop, MLB added another mound of cash to its supply via a streaming-rights deal with Apple, which will broadcast a "Friday Night Baseball" doubleheader every week starting this season. It is not clear how much Apple is paying for the rights to those games.
The Apple games will be exclusive, meaning they won’t be broadcast on the regional sports networks — SNY for the Mets, YES for the Yankees. So fans will have to cough up a few more bucks every month to pay for Apple TV+ if they want to watch their favorite team.
Apple also will have live pre- and postgame shows, plus "MLB Big Inning," an NFL RedZone-like show with highlights and live look-ins, every weeknight.
Now, if only there were games happening.
"We are in a terrible place. To have both sides yelling and pointing fingers at each other, it’s just awful," Yankees president Randy Levine, a key negotiator for MLB during the 1994-95 players’ strike, said on WFAN on Monday. "It has to stop, and we have to make a deal on what’s possible. All of that negative doesn’t get us to where we need to be."
With David Lennon