MLB, MLBPA Prepare For Unprecedented Midterm CBA Talks
The MLBPA has "outlined goals for the sport's unprecedented midterm collective bargaining, objectives likely to meet resistance from management unless the union is willing to make trade-offs," according to Ronald Blum of the AP. The MLB CBA expires in December '21, but the sides "agreed March 8 to open negotiations early." MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said that management and the union have had "only one preliminary meeting in the nearly 1 1/2 years since management first discussed early bargaining." MLBPA Exec Dir Tony Clark said, "We are interested in re-establishing a competitive environment. We are interested in restoring meaningful free agency. We are interested in getting players something closer to their value as they are producing it. We are interested in ensuring that the best players are on the field at all times" (AP, 7/9). In Boston, Peter Abraham writes MLB has what "seems like countless issues to settle" before the CBA expires, "so many that the sides have taken the unusual step of agreeing to midterm bargaining." With more than two years remaining to reach an agreement, it is "fair to think baseball can extend what has been nearly 25 years of labor peace with some give and take" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/10).
AIRING OF GRIEVANCES: The MLBPA in February '18 filed a grievance against the A's, Marlins, Pirates and Rays over their revenue-sharing spending, and Clark said that move "demonstrates we have some concerns." Clark: "The system we have now allows for dollars to be moved from one club to another. The MLBPA anticipates that each team will use those dollars in a fashion that improves the product on the field. That is what the agreement suggests." He added, "We track and follow all of the economic systems within the game. When we see concerns, we voice them to the other side." Clark said the Pirates are "one of the teams we've had concerns with, and we've also had concerns with them in the past," adding Pirates fans were "already showing their frustration before the grievance" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 7/10). In Pittsburgh, Jason Mackey noted Manfred is "not concerned about the effectiveness of revenue sharing." Manfred: "I pay attention to the aggregate instead of focusing on one individual team in one year. I think the revenue-sharing system on the whole has eased the disparity in payrolls" (POST-GAZETTE.com, 7/90).
OTHER ISSUES: Manfred said the Rays' plan to play parts of future seasons in Montreal is "an attempt to preserve" baseball in the Tampa Bay area. But in Tampa, Marc Topkin notes Manfred "stopped short, for now, at least, of saying it was the last and only chance for the team to stay, which top Rays officials have suggested." Clark said it would take "a lot of time and a lot of dialogue to figure out if it's even a possibility" for the plan to work (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 7/10). Meanwhile, Manfred said that the DH rule for both leagues "won't be up for much discussion" until '21. However, Manfred added, "I do not that think that it's inevitable. It depends on how the bargaining unfolds and how my politics develop on that one. I'm not quite sure where I am on that one" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 7/10).
CHANCE FOR REDEMPTION: In N.Y., Kepner & Wagner wrote in extending Clark's contract in November, the players have "given him another at-bat." Now is his chance to "correct whatever mistakes he and the union made" in negotiating the current CBA in '16. That agreement "drew few criticisms initially, but soon an uneasy consensus emerged: It had allowed the owners to tilt the balance in their favor." The "fundamental aspects of the system were in place before Clark took over." But some changes, such as "harder caps on international spending and stricter penalties for higher payrolls, were clear wins for owners." Some players have said that the union "might not have properly anticipated what was to come." While Clark "rejects the notion that the union was more concerned about quality-of-life issues, such as travel and clubhouse food, than the larger issues in the system, he admitted he was not prepared for the rapid changes in the labor landscape." Clark said he "didn't see the changes," as the agreement "didn't move very much." Clark: "Even others have acknowledged that the changes have been vast and quick from the standpoint of all 30 clubs." Kepner & Wagner wrote as his "second chances approaches, Clark has taken measures to galvanize players and strengthen relationships with agents." The union has "built a formal analytics department, introduced a smartphone app for players and overhauled its communications staff" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/9).