Twenty-one hours after Major League Baseball requested federal mediation, rather than issuing its planned counteroffer, the Major League Baseball Players Association rejected the league’s request.
The MLBPA released the following statement on Friday:
“Two months after implementing their lockout, and just two days after committing to Players that a counterproposal would be made, the owners refused to make a counter, and instead requested mediation. After consultation with our Executive Board, and taking into account a variety of factors, we have declined this request.
“The clearest path to a fair and timely agreement is to get back to the table. Players stand ready to negotiate.”
This latest development in the ongoing MLB lockout, which commissioner Rob Manfred instantly authorized once the previous CBA expired on Dec. 2, was expected because the players union reportedly viewed the league’s request for a federal mediator as purely a publicity stunt. Mediators are typically requested when both sides have made proposals in good faith to resolve the established disagreement.
Max Scherzer, the Mets pitcher and MLBPA executive subcommitte member, described the core differences between the sides on Friday. “We want a system where threshold and penalties don’t function as caps, allows younger players to realize more of their market value, makes service time manipulation a thing of the past, and eliminate tanking as a winning strategy,” Scherzer wrote.
Since MLB has not made its latest counteroffer, and because the MLBPA had a negative experience with a federal mediator during the 1994 strike, the players union reportedly believes that a mediator doesn’t make sense at this stage.
In a statement Friday, MLB reiterated its desire for mediation and said it hoped to start spring training and the season on time. As Yankees pitcher Jameson Taillon pointed out, that supposed urgency rings hollow. “If the goal is to get players on the field asap- then why did it take 43 days after the lockout to even hear from MLB?,” Taillon tweeted after MLB’s statement was released. “Didn’t seem like a priority then! Why did we not get a counter proposal this week? It’s all extremely tired antics/optics.”
“When attempting to negotiate a collectively bargained agreement… “bargaining” is required,” Yankees pitcher Zack Britton tweeted Friday.
So the MLBPA’s rejection should come as a surprise to exactly no one, given the stagnant pace and lack of productivity of the negotiations so far. Once Manfred initiated the lockout, MLB waited 43 days to meet the players union at the table again. Since then, only four meetings have taken place between the two sides over a two-month span.
Spring training, scheduled for as early as Feb. 14 for some clubs, is in jeopardy of starting on time following the league’s apparent reluctance to bargain. MLB’s latest reversal on making a counteroffer clearly contradicts Manfred’s previous rhetoric. In a Dec. 2 statement cunningly titled, “A letter to baseball fans,” he suggested the lockout was implemented by owners to speed up the negotiating process.
“Simply put, we believe that an offseason lockout is the best mechanism to protect the 2022 season,” Manfred wrote. “We hope that the lockout will jumpstart the negotiations and get us to an agreement that will allow the season to start on time.”
Manfred continued: “To be clear: this hard but important step does not necessarily mean games will be cancelled. In fact, we are taking this step now because it accelerates the urgency for an agreement with as much runway as possible to avoid doing damage to the 2022 season. Delaying this process further would only put Spring Training, Opening Day, and the rest of the season further at risk – and we cannot allow an expired agreement to again cause an in-season strike and a missed World Series, like we experienced in 1994. We all owe you, our fans, better than that.”
“[Manfred’s] statement was followed by 6 weeks of quiet,” Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield tweeted on Thursday. “I could give you example after example but that one pretty much sums up what these last 2 years have been like.”
On Friday, after the MLBPA rejected the league’s request for a federal mediator, several players joined in the effort to get MLB back to the bargaining table by tweeting out the hashtags “Still Waiting” and “At The Table.” The players and owners are said to be in deep disagreement over core economic issues, which MLB has suggested are nonstarters.
“The only thing holding us back is the league dragging their heels on negotiations that will lead to lost games in 2022,” Twins catcher Mitch Garver tweeted on Thursday. “I feel bad for the fans mostly because I know all players want to be at [spring training] in a few weeks, so when we’re ready to figure it out the players will be ready.”
The ball is back in Manfred’s court, as players are urging MLB to return to the table and negotiate in good faith in a timely fashion. In other words, nothing has changed since a few days ago, when MLB agreed to submit its counteroffer before going back on that assurance and sitting still. Less than two weeks remain until pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to spring camps. If these recent proceedings are any indication, fans can bank on the start of spring ball being delayed.