Yankees president Randy Levine blames MLB, players for lack of agreement
Calling Major League Baseball’s current situation "horrible" and later saying "shame on all of us" for the stalemate that has caused the cancellation of the first two series of the regular season, Yankees president Randy Levine laid the blame at the feet of both the league and the Players Association.
But Levine, MLB’s chief labor negotiator in another life who helped hammer out the 1996 collective bargaining agreement — which followed the strike by players in 1994 that canceled the World Series and led to a shortened 1995 season — left no doubt where he stands on the matter.
"There’s not endless money out there," Levine, who has been president of the Yankees since 2000, said Monday afternoon during an interview on ESPN’s "The Michael Kay Show.’’ "Any perception that there’s endless money, especially after COVID, is just not true."
Still, Levine, who has extensive background in labor law, said the key word for all involved is compromise.
"Some of the talk I’ve heard about winning and losing . . . collective bargaining is about compromise and everybody winning together and growing the game," said Levine, who is not a part of the current CBA negotiations (Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner is).
"What I’m urging for is compromise. Collective bargaining is compromise, growing the game together, being partners, getting this done together with each other. We’re all at the end of the day going to be on the same team."
Levine appeared on the radio a day after the Players Association presented its latest proposal, which was received by the league about as well as pretty much all of management’s proposals have been received by the MLBPA.
"We were hoping to see movement in our direction to give us additional flexibility and get a deal done quickly," MLB spokesperson Glen Caplin told reporters, including Newsday’s David Lennon, on Sunday night.
"The Players Association chose to come back to us with a proposal that was worse than Monday night [Feb. 28] 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."
The Athletic reported Monday night that MLB and players association lawyers met Monday and plan to meet again Tuesday. MLB has suggested Tuesday as a deadline, in its eyes, for a 162-game schedule and for players to get full pay and full service time.
The sides remain far apart on a myriad of issues. Chief among them is the luxury tax threshold — technically known as the competitive balance tax — which levies financial penalties against teams that surpass it. (The Yankees regularly surpass it, though they came in just under last year’s $210 million threshold, a longstanding goal of Steinbrenner’s.)
In its latest proposal, the MLBPA did not move from its previous proposed figures — starting at $238 million and rising to $263 million by the fifth and final year of the contract. The league hasn’t moved from its threshold of $220 million for the first three years of the deal, raising it to $224 million in the fourth year and $230 million in the fifth.
"This is nothing to shut down the season over, on both sides," Levine said. "This is something that can be compromised as long as people are reasonable and understand what’s doable on each side."
Though multiple people on the management side have said the owners themselves are not united in exactly what they want, thanks to the difference in market size, Levine said that is not the case.
"The owners are pretty united," he said. "They’ve managed to compromise things between themselves, so there is no divide right now. There’s disagreements, but everybody on our side understands that they have to compromise."
Levine also pushed back on the thought that there are owners who are OK with the cancellation of games in April because that’s generally a month in which owners make the least amount of money.
"We’re all sick, sick to lose any games," he said. "We love this game. Losing any games is bad. I mean, each game we lose, we lose a lot of money. Each game the players lose, they lose salary. That’s horrible. That means you go deeper and deeper into the hole and there’s even less money to share. That is an absolute fallacy."