MLB negotiations move forward as league sets new Tuesday deadline

Time is running out for Major League Baseball players and team owners to settle an ongoing contract dispute that threatens to stall the start of the 2022-23 season.

MLB officials told the players’ union last week that the league would cancel some regular-season games if teams failed to reach a new agreement by midnight Monday. Hoping to avoid that fate, the league has now extended the deadline until Tuesday at 5 p.m. as players and team owners continue to negotiate, after making progress in talks that extended late Monday night. Talks are expected to resume at 11 a.m. Tuesday. Opening day is scheduled for March 31.

MLB players signed a five-year labor contract with the league in 2017, but that collective bargaining agreement expired Dec. 2. Although the Major League Baseball Players Association has been in private negotiations with team owners since then, talks have stalled for months. It’s unclear how many games MLB could cancel if no deal is reached.

“I view the missing games as a disastrous outcome for this industry, and we are committed to reaching an agreement with the goal of avoiding that,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said earlier this month during a briefing. press conference in Florida, asked about the deadlock in negotiations.

Players and team owners have been tight-lipped since negotiations began, so it’s also unclear how close they might be to a deal. Officials from both sides continued their talks on Monday. Team owners and players met briefly on Sunday, a meeting described as “productive” even though players said the sides were still a long way from an agreement, CBS Sports reported.

A major hurdle to a deal is team owners unwilling to budge on key issues such as sharing revenue from televised playoff games with players, said Johnny Ducking, sports labor economist at North Carolina A&T State. University. And the owners are willing to drag out negotiations much longer because they don’t have a paycheck at stake, he said.

“If you ask 10 economists, all 10 will say owners have the upper hand,” Ducking told CBS MoneyWatch.


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Contract talks dragged on in part because it took both sides a while to get back to the negotiating table. Ducking noted that the owners and the players’ union had a long series of negotiations over whether and when teams would play during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020-21. These talks were periodically contentious, which Ducking said could color the final talks.

Without a contract, players enter the season without details of the legal conditions that govern their remuneration and working conditions. MLB announced earlier this month that spring training has been suspended until at least March 5 while the two sides continue talks.

Spring training ends March 29 and the regular season is scheduled to start March 31.

“There are dads who have promised kids to take them to games and they won’t be able to do that if some games are missed,” Ducking said.

Based on player salaries last year, which totaled just over $3.8 billion, MLB players stand to lose $20.5 million for every day erased from the regular season schedule. 186 days, the Associated Press reported. Each player loses 1/186 of their salary for each match lost. Max Scherzer and Gerrit Cole, two players involved in the negotiations, would lose $232,975 and $193,548 respectively each day.

What to do with “tanking”?

Players and team owners are arguing over a range of issues, including compensation and the practice of ‘tanking’. In most major sports, tanking occurs when a team deliberately loses as many games as possible during the season to increase its chances of getting top young college talent.

In baseball, however, teams can tan to earn a higher percentage of league revenue at the end of the season. This is because MLB tries to level the competitive playing field between teams by ensuring that each club gets roughly the same revenue each season. Teams that lose a lot of games tend to generate less revenue from their stadiums and merchandise sales, so the league sends money to make up for that loss.

Tanking caused the salaries of some players on some teams to drop or stay stable. Players and team owners are discussing new ways to discourage tanking, but they haven’t found a solution yet.

MLB generated a record $10.7 billion in revenue in 2019, according to Forbes. But it reached around $4 billion in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The average salary for a baseball player is $4.1 million, down nearly 5% from 2019, according to The Associated Press.

Players maintain that they earn less because they receive a smaller percentage of annual league revenue. The team owners are content to preserve the status quo as the expiring contract has largely worked to their advantage, CBS Sports reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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