Rob Manfred tells MLBPA there will be no economic concessions for labor peace

soxhop411

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Last summer Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association took the unprecedented step of opening Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations over two years before the current CBA expires. Most took this as a sign that the parties are cognizant of how difficult the negotiation of the next agreement will be and how much work will be required to ink a new deal without a work stoppage.
Which makes Rob Manfred’s stance during those talks somewhat surprising. Multiple sources briefed about what occurred in those talks told NBC Sports today that Manfred took an aggressive posture, telling the union that there is “not going to be a deal where we pay you in economics to get labor peace.” Manfred also told union representatives that, “maybe Marvin Miller’s financial system doesn’t work anymore.” Those briefed on Manfred’s comments requested anonymity because they were not permitted to share the details of July’s talks. Officials from the Major League Baseball Players Association declined comment.
Those briefed on Manfred’s comments tell NBC Sports that the impression left by them was that the league plans to take a hard line with the union and is unwilling to make any concessions on the numerous pocketbook issues about which the players are concerned, including tanking, the glacial pace of the free agent market, the Competitive Balance Tax, and qualifying offers.

The comment about “Marvin Miller’s financial system” was interpreted by those briefed on the negotiations as a suggestion that the league may, for the first time in over 25 years, seek to institute a salary cap or to seek other fundamental changes to the arbitration and/or free agency systems which have been in place since the 1970s. One could, if one wanted to extrapolate a bit here, infer that it meant a desire to return to the system before Marvin Miller came on the scene in the 1960s. Which was the reserve clause. Not that any of the sources to whom NBC Sports spoke made that leap.
View: https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/1197276433271406593


Negotiations are not off to a good start. This time I highly doubt the MLBPA rolls over like they have done in past CBA talks.
 
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Average Game James

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It’s early yet, but this strikes me as a really dangerous tone for the owners to take. Baseball is already a sport in decline - do you really want to risk a strike and have casual fans barely notice the game is gone?
 

Plympton91

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It’s early yet, but this strikes me as a really dangerous tone for the owners to take. Baseball is already a sport in decline - do you really want to risk a strike and have casual fans barely notice the game is gone?
I wonder to what extent the owners realize that they’re in a baseball bubble right now and want to be careful not to concede too much right before it bursts. The sport is increasingly only accessible to rich kids who can pay $4,000 for edgertronic cameras and $5,000 camp weeks at Driveline from age 8 on. The TV revenues are going to continue to fall as viewership drops from lack of interest and yet those people who remain interested still pull the plug on cable. Ballparks themselves are half full for good teams and empty for bad teams because it’s not worth it. Climate change will make summer afternoon games increasingly unpleasant. And every year the game has more in common with home run derby than a real baseball game.

And you’re going to force a strike? Good riddance. Between my 3 girls, I’ve got at least 10 more years of watching high quality softball all weekend instead. Don’t need entitled millionaires and billionaires at all.
 

InstaFace

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Strike or give us everything we want?
At least we have 100+ years of labor disputes to more or less know how that usually goes.

"The good news: 2 years to go"

=

"The good news: 2 years to increase union dues and build up a strike fund so we can sit out a whole year without any rookies feeling the pain"
 

mauf

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I’m more concerned about the airing of dirty laundry by both sides than the substance of what anyone is saying.

Are the players going to accept another deal that gives them a lower share of league revenues than NFL, NBA, and NHL players get? Obviously, no. Are the players going to get the larger share of revenue those other athletes get without adopting some elements of those sports’ business models? Equally obviously, no.

It’s not going to be easy to square that circle. It’s encouraging that both sides recognized the challenges and started negotiating very early. It is not encouraging that both sides are staking out positions in the press that might be hard to walk back later.
 

InstaFace

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Are the players going to accept another deal that gives them a lower share of league revenues than NFL, NBA, and NHL players get? Obviously, no. Are the players going to get the larger share of revenue those other athletes get without adopting some elements of those sports’ business models? Equally obviously, no.
I'm not sure either side is obvious, honestly, but particularly the latter. Global soccer survives and thrives despite having an unhindered bidding war for talent that drives ever-more-reckless spending by teams trying to prove to their fans that they "want to win".

Not that that's necessarily the best model, of course, and it would mean trouble for franchise values, but that's also the closest comp for the economic model of MLB.
 

TomBrunansky23

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So far, what about the Manfred years should fill anyone with confidence that he can get these negotiations into the barn? I see more and more Goodell-esque tone deafness with every move he continues to make or propose.
 

Average Reds

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Strike or give us everything we want?
Owners: we own this game, we will collude about anything any time we want, go strike.
It’s early yet, but this strikes me as a really dangerous tone for the owners to take. Baseball is already a sport in decline - do you really want to risk a strike and have casual fans barely notice the game is gone?
Manfred is not technically bluffing, but he is making a “bluff-like” statement to serve a purpose.

The “problem” with MLB negotiations is that both sides perceive that the other side has too much to lose to allow a strike to occur. Of course, there’s a lot of truth to this, because there is so much money in the game right now that a stoppage would be ruinous. And that reality is what might cause a stoppage if one side digs in too deeply believing that the other side “will never let a strike happen.”

Manfred’s statement reads (to me) as if he’s warning the union not to make that mistake. Of course, the unspoken counter is that this warning goes both ways.

This is why I do expect a stoppage of some sort. Not a long one, but a decent chunk of a season.
 

BoSox Rule

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One thing that is different than 1994 (and I’d be curious to see how much so) is what percentage of revenue in baseball that comes directly from TV deals. Even as attendance declines year over year, MLB reaches revenue records year over year. I’m curious how a work stoppage would go over with Fox, ESPN, etc. when they pay billions and billions of dollars to broadcast games or how they would be made whole during one.
 

mauf

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I'm not sure either side is obvious, honestly, but particularly the latter. Global soccer survives and thrives despite having an unhindered bidding war for talent that drives ever-more-reckless spending by teams trying to prove to their fans that they "want to win".

Not that that's necessarily the best model, of course, and it would mean trouble for franchise values, but that's also the closest comp for the economic model of MLB.
What percentage of EPL revenues go to player salaries? With the lavish transfer fees those teams play, I assumed the players’ take was a lot lower than it is in major North American leagues, but I haven’t seen data.
 

Average Game James

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I'm not sure either side is obvious, honestly, but particularly the latter. Global soccer survives and thrives despite having an unhindered bidding war for talent that drives ever-more-reckless spending by teams trying to prove to their fans that they "want to win".

Not that that's necessarily the best model, of course, and it would mean trouble for franchise values, but that's also the closest comp for the economic model of MLB.
I’m not sure soccer can really be a comp to the North American leagues because of relegation. There’s massive financial downside to owners if their teams aren’t at least modestly competitive. I’d imagine MLB spending would look massively different if the bottom 4 teams each year got sent to AAA and lost MLB TV revenues.

Edit: And I suppose it also has incentives on the top end with Champions League. Like, how crazy would some teams in the MLB get if playoff revenues were only split among playoff teams?
 

InstaFace

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What percentage of EPL revenues go to player salaries? With the lavish transfer fees those teams play, I assumed the players’ take was a lot lower than it is in major North American leagues, but I haven’t seen data.
Remember that transfer fees are just the various owners shuffling money around between themselves, all of them untaxed business expenditures or revenues. The handful of largest clubs in Europe, each making over half a billion in revenues per year, basically have their money trickle down to every tier below them, tier by tier, which has many virtues (rewarding clubs that do well with development, giving deserving players upward mobility, etc), and of course drawbacks in competitive balance. The players see none of that, but the average club's net transfer fees, out-minus-in, is zero almost by definition.

In the EPL, in 2017-18, the ratio of player salaries ("wage bill") to club revenues ("turnover") was 59%. 13 clubs made a profit, 7 made a loss. It would take a lot of work to get good data for other leagues or years, but I imagine that's indicative. And needless to say, that's a higher ratio than the big-4 american leagues. As a result, profitability is lower, so franchise values are surely lower.
 

Kenny F'ing Powers

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I'll play devils advocate.

If a work stoppage ends with a salary cap, I'm all for it.

The union would fight it tooth and nail, and it stinks for the players and for the big market clubs, but the balance it puts around the league is worth it.
 

Kenny F'ing Powers

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There's already a defacto salary cap in the form of increasingly punitive luxury tax thresholds.
Sure. And while the top 5 clubs may play up to "the cap" (5 teams at or near $200m), the remaining 25 teams don't come close for a myriad of reasons ($50m - 175m). A true cap with a floor provides some semblance of balance. The luxury tax thresholds don't seem to be doing the job.
 

HangingW/ScottCooper

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One thing that is different than 1994 (and I’d be curious to see how much so) is what percentage of revenue in baseball that comes directly from TV deals. Even as attendance declines year over year, MLB reaches revenue records year over year. I’m curious how a work stoppage would go over with Fox, ESPN, etc. when they pay billions and billions of dollars to broadcast games or how they would be made whole during one.
I think baseball needs to realize the untapped market of UHD/4K streaming broadcasts and the eyes that would bring to the sport. Yes, you have to worry about hatcheting up what's there, but there's also an untapped market that makes the pie bigger.
 

Max Power

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Manfred is right, but probably for the wrong reasons. The economics of Marvin Miller really don't work anymore. Giving up the first six years of your career in the majors for far below what you're worth doesn't work when free agent contracts have dried up for all but the best players. Baseball needs to find a way to pay young players more when they're contributing most to the team, while still making it possible for small market teams to compete. It would have to involve a huge amount of revenue sharing, but that seems unlikely to be agreed to by the owners.
 

Dewey'sCannon

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As long as both sides recognize that they each have a lot to lose from a work stoppage, and don't get too hard-headed about their positions going in, then I think it's possible to thread the needle and come up with a solution that addresses the union's major issues (a more competitive market for free agents, and salaries that more nearly reflect the value of players in their early years, before the last year or two of arbitration) without the owners feeling like they're giving away the store. FYI, I do collective bargaining (on the union side) for a living, and in my experience every successful negotiation is the result of good faith collaborative problem-solving.

As Max Power said above, it would seem that changes in revenue sharing would need to be made to allow small market teams to spend more pre-FA, but I think that this might be achievable if the additional revenue sharing money is contingent on those teams actually spending this on player salaries rather than just pocketing it - creating a flexible, de facto floor similar to the luxury tax limits (which could also be modified, especially with respect to the draft pick penalties).

Although the parties are (understandably) far apart, it's good that they've at least started the discussions, as this is a pretty complicated puzzle - lots of pieces that they will have to take apart and put back together, and each piece they change will create a need to change something else. So they're going to need some time, and some skill, to do this.
 

Teachdad46

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As long as both sides recognize that they each have a lot to lose from a work stoppage, and don't get too hard-headed about their positions going in, then I think it's possible to thread the needle and come up with a solution that addresses the union's major issues (a more competitive market for free agents, and salaries that more nearly reflect the value of players in their early years, before the last year or two of arbitration) without the owners feeling like they're giving away the store. FYI, I do collective bargaining (on the union side) for a living, and in my experience every successful negotiation is the result of good faith collaborative problem-solving.

As Max Power said above, it would seem that changes in revenue sharing would need to be made to allow small market teams to spend more pre-FA, but I think that this might be achievable if the additional revenue sharing money is contingent on those teams actually spending this on player salaries rather than just pocketing it - creating a flexible, de facto floor similar to the luxury tax limits (which could also be modified, especially with respect to the draft pick penalties).

Although the parties are (understandably) far apart, it's good that they've at least started the discussions, as this is a pretty complicated puzzle - lots of pieces that they will have to take apart and put back together, and each piece they change will create a need to change something else. So they're going to need some time, and some skill, to do this.
Is your experience in the public or private sector?
 

Teachdad46

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How about yours?

I ask because for a lurker with three posts to his credit, you seem awfully condescending towards the opinions of other members. So perhaps you can share the source of your experitise.
What? Being a new 'member' and asking a simple question is somehow condescending? Given your in-depth take on the negotiations I wanted to know more about the background you based it on? My apologies for my unintended transgression. Please send me a list of the dos and don'ts for future posts.
 

Lose Remerswaal

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We don't usually call out other members here to post their CVs.

And you are replying to a different person than you called out.

If you don't want to provide your bona fides, why should Dewey?

Btw, the guy you replied to here is a Moderator who has earned that position.

Respect the norms of the board, if not the individuals
 

InstaFace

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What? Being a new 'member' and asking a simple question is somehow condescending? Given your in-depth take on the negotiations I wanted to know more about the background you based it on? My apologies for my unintended transgression. Please send me a list of the dos and don'ts for future posts.
Taking you at your word - and bearing in mind I'm not a mod - your post seemed calculated to snarkily dispute both of the posts you replied to, and the first added no substance. And now your reply here is doubly so ("...is somehow condescending", and the final sentence which if uttered aloud would be considered sarcastic and argumentative 95% of the time).

Here's two unsolicited pieces of advice:

1) If a mod like Average Reds makes a moderator-style suggestion, take the hint, don't get defensive and push back. People who get snippy don't last here. Up to you if you'd rather feel righteously indignant or be a part of our community, but at the rate you're going, that's your choice. And it ain't up to me, but everyone here has seen it happen dozens of times.

2) The official board rules aren't hard to find, but the decades-long pillar of them here is "don't suck". That has many shades of meaning, but one of them is that the more value and insight your posts add, the more leeway you get if you occasionally throw in some snark or off-the-cuff reactions. In this case, your first reply here kinda undermined the perhaps-intended spirit of curiosity in your second, by letting people draw assumptions that you were disputing his expertise, rather than sincerely trying to gain context. And they might draw those assumptions because they haven't seen you bring value yet, to this or any other thread. People put a lot of thought into posts here typically, and you kinda need to learn the mood and culture and get known for your own style before you can just dash something off.

edit: I take it back, the official rules ARE hard to find. Arguably we shouldn't need them, but I did think there was an advisory to each new member that signs up at least giving them some basics.
 

Average Reds

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Three quick points:

1. I don’t moderate this forum. I was posting as a member who didn’t care for the implication of the post I quoted.

2. This may be unfair, but we have a presumption here that longtime members have a certain credibility based on their contributions. Dewey may not be the most prolific poster, but he’s been around for 14 years and has a track record.

3. That said, I could have handled it through PMs and not through a strident PM.
 

joe dokes

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Is your experience in the public or private sector?
I dont think it matters. Major sports-league "union" negotiations are sui generis. That's based on my "experience" of having observed them since the 1972 MLB strike.
That aside, Manfred's statement is pretty opaque. Even the source of the story had several possible interpretations, up to and including the reserve clause. "Interpret it any way you want" is a more plausibly deniable shot across the Union bow then something more obviously confrontational. I would be shocked if Manfred has truly been given marching orders to get the reserve clause back (at least insofar as it binds players to "one more year"), but if the Union wants a salary floor as a hedge against tanking, it wil likely be met with a demand for a cap.
 

Dewey'sCannon

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Just to answer the question posed: I have 30 years experience negotiating collective bargaining agreements as an attorney for a public sector labor union, including negotiations over pay and benefits as well as many other conditions of employment. I think the biggest difference between public sector and private sector (assuming you're doing pay and benefits, which is not always the case in the public sector) is that there are more restrictions (Statutes, regulations, etc) that apply to public sector bargaining. But the dynamics of the collective bargaining process are essentially the same. However, every negotiation is different, not only because of the differences in issues, but also because of the differences in the parties, and the nature of the relationship, which has a huge impact on their ability to reach an agreement. I think last time around, the MLBPA was hampered because they didn't have a professional negotiator running their bargaining team, and they ended up with a not-so-great deal. They should be better off this time now that they hired Bruce Meyer to be their chief negotiator.
 

Bernie Carbohydrate

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Just to answer the question posed: I have 30 years experience negotiating collective bargaining agreements as an attorney for a public sector labor union, including negotiations over pay and benefits as well as many other conditions of employment. I think the biggest difference between public sector and private sector (assuming you're doing pay and benefits, which is not always the case in the public sector) is that there are more restrictions (Statutes, regulations, etc) that apply to public sector bargaining. But the dynamics of the collective bargaining process are essentially the same. However, every negotiation is different, not only because of the differences in issues, but also because of the differences in the parties, and the nature of the relationship, which has a huge impact on their ability to reach an agreement. I think last time around, the MLBPA was hampered because they didn't have a professional negotiator running their bargaining team, and they ended up with a not-so-great deal. They should be better off this time now that they hired Bruce Meyer to be their chief negotiator.
Ned Martin: Teachdad taking a big lead off first. Willie Randolph with a line drive to deep right field, Evans -- on the run -- snags it a step in front of the bullpen wall...Wait, Teachdad tagging up and digging for second....Evans uncorks a strong throw -- Remy with the tag .... Techdad is... is...OUT. Double play!

Jim Woods: Boy, Dewey with a bazooka out there in right field. Perfectly placed, three hundred feet on a line, right into the the glove of the second baseman.

Ned Martin: Mercy.
 
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Teachdad46

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Just to answer the question posed: I have 30 years experience negotiating collective bargaining agreements as an attorney for a public sector labor union, including negotiations over pay and benefits as well as many other conditions of employment. I think the biggest difference between public sector and private sector (assuming you're doing pay and benefits, which is not always the case in the public sector) is that there are more restrictions (Statutes, regulations, etc) that apply to public sector bargaining. But the dynamics of the collective bargaining process are essentially the same. However, every negotiation is different, not only because of the differences in issues, but also because of the differences in the parties, and the nature of the relationship, which has a huge impact on their ability to reach an agreement. I think last time around, the MLBPA was hampered because they didn't have a professional negotiator running their bargaining team, and they ended up with a not-so-great deal. They should be better off this time now that they hired Bruce Meyer to be their chief negotiator.
I 100% agree that they were underserved during the last go-round. I was confounded, if not astounded by the scale of it. I also agree that as you wrote in your previous post, this new agreement is going to take a lot of background work with multiple threads of consequence tied into it. I think of it as a ticking bomb with both you and your enemy chained to it and trying to work out how to keep it from going off; finding a common language would be a good place to begin.
 

Teachdad46

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Ned Martin: Techdad taking a big lead of first. Willie Randolph with a line drive to deep right field, Evans -- on the run -- snags it a step in front of the bullpen wall...Wait, Techdad tagging up and digging for second....Evans uncorks a strong throw -- Remy with the tag .... Techdad is... is...OUT. Double play!

Jim Woods: Boy, Dewey with a bazooka out there in right field. Perfectly placed, three hundred feet on a line, right into the the glove of the second baseman.

Ned Martin: Mercy.
I'd take a lifetime of being out at second for just one more "Mercy" from Ned..
 

Teachdad46

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Three quick points:

1. I don’t moderate this forum. I was posting as a member who didn’t care for the implication of the post I quoted.

2. This may be unfair, but we have a presumption here that longtime members have a certain credibility based on their contributions. Dewey may not be the most prolific poster, but he’s been around for 14 years and has a track record.

3. That said, I could have handled it through PMs and not through a strident PM.
Well, in your defense you do have Rudy as your avatar...
 

shaggydog2000

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2 years to go. This is prime posturing time. If this is how they talk 2-3 months before the deadline, then I'll take a bit more seriously. A bit.