Red Sox and baseball continue in lockdown wait pattern
The Boston Red Sox and their twenty-nine other accomplices who make up Major League Baseball are fully invested in a player lockout. A lockout is a bargaining tool, but the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) – a rather interesting union – is not toothless since it is the manpower needed.
Both parties are in a phase of simply delaying the negotiation process. According to the latest information published, the fundamental issues will not be discussed until January.
Generating a minimum of sympathy for either party is a Herculean task. A feud between millionaires and billionaires while the hoi polloi are in the throes of crushing inflation. As a former union member, I adhere to the concept of negotiations, collective bargaining and reaching a mutually acceptable conclusion. In this case, I distance myself from the belligerents.
The union is very distant, for example, from the Union of Hotel and Restaurant Employers. Conversely, MLB owners don’t care about the details of supply chains, material costs, and the most important competitive factor. A “Pox on their two houses”. becomes fairly obvious as this problem persists.
The Japanese have Seppuku or ritual suicide, and is this a solution? This seems like the direction both sides intend to take without the blood and blood that come with it. During the Cold War, the term MAD became synonymous with the ability of Russia and the United States in a nuclear exchange to have mutually assured destruction.
The 1994 strike ended the MLB in early August and a latent labor-management dispute materialized in a strike. A strike at the most inopportune moment when the intense season captures the attention of the public and the media as the teams compete for positioning. The resulting contentious labor dispute killed the playoffs, the World Series and Tony Gwynn’s attempt to hit .400.
The strike simmered throughout the offseason and was finally resolved. The ultimate cost was a drop of twenty million in attendance. The eventual recovery was accomplished by Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire.
The situation in 1994 was at loggerheads, the (shocking) problem being the money. The situation in 2022 is markedly different from that of the conflict of 1994, as compensation has risen dramatically, the two sides have limited their feuds, and the value of franchises has soared into billions. A situation that should be resolved quickly, but given baseball I am inclined to expect a long strike.
The collective agreement (CBA) will eventually be formalized. The recently expired document was 274 pages long, making it an inviting target for the legion of lawyers putting the finishing touches on the sacred scroll. To put this in context, the Constitution of the United States contains 4,543 words.
What will happen exactly?
I had mentioned Seppuku, and a prolonged failure to start the season will have long-term consequences. Spring Training is generating the excitement of a new season, but a delay will be a wedge for fans – especially casual fans – to look elsewhere to spend their entertainment dollar. The longer the warring factions pursue each other, the greater the disengagement that could extend to baseball’s loyalists.
Imagery is a big factor, and baseball suffers from an identity crisis. Loss of interest in youth leagues, tedious games, appalling television ratings and being supplanted as an American pastime by the National Football League. A strike will do nothing to stop a slide towards possible uselessness.
A protracted and acrimonious labor dispute could take a decade to repair the joint damage inflicted. Baseball has survived a myriad of destructive gambling behaviors, strikes, outrageous personal behaviors, and performance drugs.
What if a settlement is found?
The negotiations will be like any other management-union negotiation and will target benefits, wages, terms of employment and even rectify a mistake made by the union years ago. Once a settlement is struck, the price tag will flow down the funnel to the fans. Expect ticket prices, merchandising, and stadium prices to absorb the new labor costs.
Baseball has a luxury tax that penalizes teams for overspending, but will the new deal implement any significant changes? The National Football League places a basement number that forces teams to spend, and MLB does not, and some teams may qualify for a grant without punitive consequences. Will the parties come to an agreement on a ceiling and a basement?
MLB proposed a basement of $ 100 million and a cap of $ 180 million. A preliminary offer to tinker with the luxury tax and a model giving guidance to the negotiating teams. The measure is an attempt at equalization and an element worthy of interest for both parties. I fully subscribe to the concept of a basement for team payrolls.
As the Red Sox, the financial issues of the fans become paramount and the Red Sox Nation has two divergent positions on the payroll and the luxury tax that goes with it. The first is to retain the players and meet the needs that the farming system cannot meet. Certainly this has been the cornerstone of four World Series flags of this century. The approach has the consequences of an exhausted agricultural system, dead money and heavy contracts.
The Chaim Bloom regime is in full swing and the second approach is to use corporate dollars more wisely. The Red Sox might have positioned themselves rather favorably if the luxury tax was lowered. If the current administration continues on this linear path, I will picture Boston not as Tampa Bay but as the Cardinals.