IRVING, Texas – The future of sport is unfolding here in the conference rooms of a luxury hotel.
Major League Baseball officials and a handful of team owners met with players and players’ union officials at the Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas in Las Colinas on Monday and Tuesday. The Monday meeting lasted a couple of hours, while the Tuesday meetings were both mornings and afternoons.
The clock is ticking. On Wednesday at 11:59 p.m. Eastern, the baseball foundation – the five-year collective agreement between the owners of the 30 MLB teams and the players – expires. The document regulates everything from the length of the season to squad sizes to domestic violence policy and the economic structure of the sport.
The economic structure has been the biggest sticking point for years and remains so in the negotiations. MLB officials and the seven club owners that make up the league’s Labor Policy Committee came to Texas to negotiate directly with players during the union’s annual board meetings. But if a deal can’t be finalized by the time the CBA expires, there is a potential for a lockout that would freeze the entire sport.
The MLB has not had a stoppage of work since the strike that ended the 1994 season prematurely, canceled this year’s World Series and bled into the next season. The players then successfully prevented the introduction of a salary c -, but the episode left lasting damage to the sport. Since then, there has been industrial peace and baseball has grown into an industry with annual sales of $ 11 billion, with superstar players continually breaking records for contract size.
However, since the last CBA was canceled before the 2017 season, the union and players have grown louder about what they believe to be flaws in the system. This agreement is believed to have tipped the balance further in favor of the owners, with changes like tougher c -s on international spending and stricter penalties for higher payrolls.
Players would like a number of improvements, including earlier compensation for younger players (which are che -er and more relied on), which allows players to get salary arbitration and free representation sooner, and teams through one Series of measures to force competitiveness including changes to amateur design.
The owners, on the other hand, believe that MLB players have the best deal in professional sports and point to spending on free agents this off-season as a bullet point in this argument. The MLB has also announced its aim to improve the competitive balance between the teams, but has suggested other ways to achieve this than the union. His proposals, some of which have been rejected, include: changes to the draft regulation that could prevent so-called tanking, a lower salary limit for clubs and a lower luxury tax limit, a revision of the pay arbitration process, one based on age and expansion of the playoffs, resulting in more revenue would.
During this year’s World Series, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and Tony Clark, executive director of the MLB Players Association, expressed public optimism that an agreement would be reached before the deadline.
However, there are many negotiating hurdles and tense working relationships to be overcome by Wednesday. The mistrust between owners and players has increased over the years. The bitter negotiations about the resumption of the 2020 season, which had been suspended in spring training due to the coronavirus pandemic, reached a climax last year. The sides quarreled for months and made sharp explanations.
This year was different as both groups pledged to learn from last summer’s lessons and negotiated largely outside of the public eye. However, the players were more determined than in the past. Last year’s dispute united them and forced some to pay more attention to the economics of their sport.
At the owners’ meeting in Chicago in mid-November, Manfred argued that an off-season break was more palatable than one that hurt the season.
“I can’t believe there’s a single fan in the world who doesn’t understand that an off-season lockout that drives the process forward is different from an industrial action that costs games,” he told reporters at the time. He later added, “We understand, I understand that time becomes a problem.”
If a new deal is not reached late Wednesday night, MLB owners could use a hammer right away: a lockout that freezes all transactions. If so, team leaders would not be allowed to speak to players, make major league engagements, or swing trades.
While lockouts have occurred in such cases in the four major North American professional men’s sports leagues, they are not a requirement. Should the MLB and the union make progress in their negotiations in the evenings, the owners could temporarily withhold a lockout.
On Tuesday morning, MLB officials and owners like Hal Steinbrenner of the Yankees, Mark Attanasio of the Milwaukee Brewers and John Henry of the Boston Red Sox emerged more than 30 minutes from a meeting where they heard a union proposal. They retired to their hotel to talk, but returned to the players’ hotel that afternoon.
In a large conference room, union officials and a contingent of players (an estimated 60 were in town for union meetings) huddled with MLB officials and the owners for over 30 minutes.
Each side then broke off into their own conference rooms. At one point, Andrew Miller, a top union representative who ran for the St. Louis Cardinals that year, and Bruce Meyer, the union’s chief negotiator, went with Dick Monfort, owner of the Colorado Rockies and chairman of the league’s committee, and Dan Halem, MLB negotiator.
After almost an hour, the groups separated. MLB officials and owners got into their cars to leave while the players returned to their rooms. They wanted to meet again on Wednesday. What h -pens next is in their collective hands.