SportsMLB lockout - Are the owners and players talking?...

MLB lockout – Are the owners and players talking? Should baseball fans be worried? Here’s the latest


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Six weeks after the MLB lockout began on Dec. 1, it seems like very little progress has been made toward a new collective bargaining agreement. So what exactly is going on between the owners and players during baseball’s work stoppage? Are the two sides moving any closer to a deal? And most importantly: When is it time to worry about the start of spring training and even the 2022 MLB regular season?

ESPN baseball experts Jeff Passan and Jesse Rogers tackle those questions and more.

Latest: Why MLB’s labor negotiations have gone nowhere — and baseball’s path back | MLB, players’ association meet for first time since lockout began

More: Lockout FAQ | A brief history of MLB labor stoppages (ESPN+) | ‘Oh, my God — how can we do this?’: An oral history of the 1994 MLB strike

Did the two sides meet last week?

No. The span between any core-economic conversations between the sides is now approaching the 40-day mark. That is nearly a month and a half during which the sides could have been talking. To put it another way: The gap between the Dec. 2 lockout and today is greater than that between today and the mid-February dates pitchers and catchers are expected to report to spring training.

Are they planning to meet this week?

There’s nothing on the books. The union believes it’s the league’s turn to make an offer, and MLB is discussing potential proposals. Negotiations are likely to recommence on MLB’s timetable.

How much progress has been made?

Slightly less than very little. Every day that goes by without conversation, without movement, is a waste. It’s true that deadlines tend to spur movement, and the next deadline — the spring report date — is a soft one, seeing as both parties acknowledge that training camps can be pushed back. Still, a mad-scramble negotiation is volatile, fraught with unknowns, liable to blow up spectacularly, and as heated as players are and entrenched as owners are about the current state of affairs, the lack of any substantive progress draws baseball closer to a worst-case-scenario course than the alternative.

Are there any new issues?

Expanding on this a touch … there’s a lingering question about the balance in the sides’ concerns over poor-performing teams. The players see how the game’s levers incentivize teams to lose. The low-revenue owners believe that the fewer restraints on payroll exist, the less likely they are to be competitive. The real question here: Will the issues of competitiveness actually factor in for either side when they get down to brass tacks, or will it be strictly about money?

What can break the dam here?

Multiple sources familiar with the discussions believe the competitive-balance-tax threshold could wind up as the main hinge point in negotiations. It’s too early to say whether it will be the final piece solidified before a new basic agreement, but if a deal happens to avoid a prolonged lockout, it almost certainly will involve the CBT floor being raised from $210 million.

Is there a drop-dead date for spring training games to be played as scheduled?

Games are scheduled to begin Feb. 26. At absolute latest, there must be a two-week lead time — and there probably should be more. The visa issues for foreign players are expected to be significant. Getting domestic travel in place will take a few days. Don’t forget the COVID-19 protocols that are likely to necessitate extra time. And that’s not even mentioning all the free agents who still need jobs and the prep work pitchers need once they get to spring training. Getting an agreement by Feb.1 would make life a lot easier. But remember: As much as teams would like to get in spring training games, regular-season games matter far, far, far-far-far more.

How concerned should fans be at this point?

Anyone with plane tickets and hotels in Arizona or Florida for the first day of pitchers and catchers hopefully has travel insurance. But if you have tickets to Opening Day in late March, don’t ask for a refund just yet. Time is the greatest friend of these negotiations, even if the sides have wasted the past six weeks of it.

Dec. 20, 2021

Did the two sides meet recently?

Yes. But only on some of the smaller or “noncore economic” issues, which wouldn’t necessarily even involve the lead negotiators from both sides, although at least there was communication. These noncore issues — which might include scheduling, the All-Star Game, drug and domestic violence policies, grievance procedures and special events — are worth discussing, but the only conversations that will get us closer to ending the shutdown will be on the major economic issues that forced the lockout in the first place.

Are they planning to meet again?

Nothing is scheduled for Christmas week, but that can always change if one side or the other has something to add or change or say about a proposal — but even then, it would most likely remain on those noncore topics.

How much progress has been made?

Very little so far. January will be a big month in determining when the lockout ends. The core economic issues will be back on the table in the new year, and serious negotiations should take place. It’s anyone’s guess right now if that will happen on Jan. 2 or Jan. 22, but the sides can’t avoid the train coming down the tracks (especially since spring training typically begins in February). To break the deadlock, one or both sides is going to have to give a little on a major issue.

What kind of major issue?

Nothing big — just the economic systems that have been in place for decades. Sarcasm aside, there are several key hot topics which need resolving, including years to free agency (or the switch to an age-based system), the arbitration system and revenue sharing among clubs. Paraphrasing here — the players say they’re working under antiquated rules, while the league says these are core issues to the way the game has played, which have long since been agreed upon. That’s the deadlock.

Why can’t they compromise?

The union was not at all happy with how the 2016 collective bargaining agreement negotiations turned out — or, they say, how the game has changed since. So this year, the players need a win. The league believes they’ve offered them a few in the form of an NBA-style draft lottery and/or the elimination of draft pick compensation for free agents. Obviously, the union doesn’t think that’s enough.

How concerned should fans be at this point?

Not very, yet — but we’ll know much more in a month.

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