The Mainboard MLB Lockout Thread

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Max Power

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You've followed this more closely than I have so here's my question for you - do you really think what I guess were MLBPA's first two proposals were reasonable? Age-based FA, elevated luxury tax, earlier salary arbitration? https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2021/11/mlbpa-makes-second-core-economics-proposal-to-mlb.html. All of those are non-starters to the owners. I mean I'm not saying that players have to be reasonable when the owners are being unreasonable but the players offers' don't strike me as reasonable.
In a world where young players are the most productive and teams have responded to that by prioritizing collecting young talent over free agents and putting a competitive product on the field, those are very reasonable proposals. Teams are being run much differently today than they were even 5 years ago. Using the CBA from 5 years ago with a little fiddling around the edges isn't reasonable.
 

PrometheusWakefield

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I mean, if we're going by what's "reasonable" in any kind of objective sense what the players should demand is: universal free agency starting at year zero, the abolition of the international draft, the abolition of the domestic draft, the abolition of the luxury tax and any other disguised salary cap, the honoring of contracts, and as a consequence, for the salary of baseball players to reflect fair market value. You know, the same basic understanding of a free market for labor that you all out there probably enjoy in your industry. Anything less than that represents a continuation of the unconscionable compromises that players have made over the course of decades because in the end most of them just want to play the game rather than argue about money.

And basic principles of morality, fair play and economic competition apply even when both sides of an issue have a lot of money.
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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Two issues where I am very pro player:

2. Earlier arbitration. Seems to me that I've heard 1000 times that the best deals for owners are players under the initial team control and the worst deals tend to be high-priced free agents. So if I were the MLBPA I'd be worried those FA deals might diminish with time and that it makes sense to improve the income earlier in the deal. If giving the next Betts/Pujols more money at age 24 means there will be less money to give them at age 38 that seems like a sound practice for all sides.
One thing about negotiations - parties don't always negotiate in their best interest. Arbitration is a gereat example of this. IIRC (and I"m pretty sure I'm right about this) the owners were warned that arbitration was the biggest give-away they could make. It's basically guaranteed raises for players who may not have "earned" the raise. The owners gave it away and they absolutely regret it.

Arbitration is a huge windfall for the players. That's why earlier abritration is a non-starter for the owners.
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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I mean, if we're going by what's "reasonable" in any kind of objective sense what the players should demand is: universal free agency starting at year zero, the abolition of the international draft, the abolition of the domestic draft, the abolition of the luxury tax and any other disguised salary cap, the honoring of contracts, and as a consequence, for the salary of baseball players to reflect fair market value. You know, the same basic understanding of a free market for labor that you all out there probably enjoy in your industry. Anything less than that represents a continuation of the unconscionable compromises that players have made over the course of decades because in the end most of them just want to play the game rather than argue about money.

And basic principles of morality, fair play and economic competition apply even when both sides of an issue have a lot of money.
I'm sure the owners would be willing to do that if all players were employees at will every year and there was no guaranteed money. This is the Charley Finley proposal from way back.

You know the basic market standards that I work under and presumably you do as well.

edit: the real losers under that plan are the fans.
 
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jon abbey

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In a world where young players are the most productive and teams have responded to that by prioritizing collecting young talent over free agents and putting a competitive product on the field, those are very reasonable proposals.
To be clear, young players are not the most productive, they are the most productive once you factor in what they get paid compared to veterans. This is why younger players need to get paid more, their relatively low salaries mess up the whole system (except for the superstars, who get paid huge bucks under any system).
 

Brianish

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Two issues where I am very pro player:

1 Minimum Salary. Think about someone who toils for years in the minor leagues. Makes it to the big leagues at 24-25, which is an incredible accomplishment, lasts say three and a half years, and then goes back to minors for a bit and ends up out of baseball. What's the total earnings there? $2Million? Seems way low to me. In the NBA and the NFL most players are just on the roster from the beginning of their pro career. Not so much in baseball.

2. Earlier arbitration. Seems to me that I've heard 1000 times that the best deals for owners are players under the initial team control and the worst deals tend to be high-priced free agents. So if I were the MLBPA I'd be worried those FA deals might diminish with time and that it makes sense to improve the income earlier in the deal. If giving the next Betts/Pujols more money at age 24 means there will be less money to give them at age 38 that seems like a sound practice for all sides.
My cynical brain immediately kicked in and thought "Sure but both of these chiefly benefit younger players with less clout, so they'll be the first things to get dropped."

I sincerely hope I'm wrong.
 

pokey_reese

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I feel like part of what is missing here, when looking at the product and the MLBPA as a labor force responsible for the value of the business (i.e., 'you don't pay to watch the owners'), is the weirdness around how the labor force is divided. I don't pay to watch the owners, true, but I don't strictly pay to watch the MLBPA members, either, and that's a market restriction that is odd here. If the MLBPA members just decided no deal can get done and they all leave the game, I would still pay if the owners just promoted the non-40 man members from the minor leagues and brought them to Fenway as the new Red Sox. I would go on June evenings, and cheer for them, and buy beers. Maybe the quality of the product is a little lower for a bit, but only marginally, and since it is even across the league, it doesn't really mess with competitive balance. The players in the union are responsible for much of the value of the product, but not all of it, and that marginal difference is DEFINITELY not representative in their specific proportion of the pie. VORP is kind of an issue here that isn't well addressed in this fight, in that the minor leaguers are in the awkward spot of being impacted by the negotiations but also essentially treated as scabs.
 

Papo The Snow Tiger

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Imagine tomorrow the CEO of your company says "Folks, sorry to say this, but you all are making too much money. Yes, you only make what we agree to pay you and yes, revenues are growing faster than salaries, but still, we've decided that it's too much and we're sick of paying it. We need more "cost certainty". So we've gotten together with all the other CEOs in this business and we've decided we are going to set a cap luxury tax on total employee salaries industry wide. Somehow that is legal for us because the Supreme Court has decided that this specific many billion dollar industry does not constitute commercial activity and therefore you have no protection from anti-competitive acts by your employer. Your choices are to hand over more of the surplus value of your labor or we will lock you out of the building and abrogate all our contracts with all of you until you relent. Meanwhile here is some utter bullshit numbers about how this industry is barely profitable."

For me, there is no comparison between the two sides here. Major League Baseball as an institution is at root a conspiracy against the public whose primary function was to reduce their employees to reserve clause peonage, a status that continues to this day for the majority of players who have not achieved the arbitrary levels of "service time" that allows them the same freedom of contract that employees in every other field have as a matter of right. The Major League Baseball Players Association was the intuition created to resist that.
I used to work as a salaried exempt employee for a large corporation and have a friend who worked at the same place. Even though he is slightly older and had worked there slightly longer we were very much peers as far as job function and salary went. We were in the same job code. We both worked at that corporation for over thirty-five years each, had yearly performance reviews and merit increases, both received multiple promotions and were well penetrated into our salary range but not at the top of it. Long story short we had earned being where we were. About two years ago there was a change in our management, and he told me that he learned the new director had said that my friend was overpaid for what he did and that I was probably in the same boat. There was then an early retirement package offered that he took. Financially I could have taken the package, but I wasn't quite mentally ready to retire at that moment, so I passed on it. Two months later I got laid off. It turns out that in my job code there were 120 people and twelve were laid off. Eleven of the twelve were over fifty-five and ten of the twelve were over sixty. I was one of the ten. Luckily for me I had been planning for retirement right along, and between the severance, unused vacation and unemployment I was nicely bridged to age 62 and I ended up landing on my feet, but I'll go to my grave wishing I had a union and cursing the director who took it upon himself to decide that I made too much money. I'm hoping the MLBPA gets everything it's after.
 

PedroKsBambino

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I'm sure the owners would be willing to do that if all players were employees at will every year and there was no guaranteed money. This is the Charley Finley proposal from way back.

You know the basic market standards that I work under and presumably you do as well.

edit: the real losers under that plan are the fans.
Yes. A lot of posts are only considering one side of the equation. That is not saying the sides are equal---only that the past negotiations (however imperfect) represented a bunch of benefits and concessions for both sides. So, a few 'wins' for players: they have a very high minimum salary relative to any regulation in place; they have lots of guaranteed money that doesn't exist in other industries; they have strong healthcare and pension programs; they benefit (within the economics of baseball) from arbitration as an accelorator, etc. Do the players deserve all this for the value they create? Of course they do, and on average more as well. But it's a more credible discussion if we note the trade-offs and such rather than simply talk about the good guys and the bad guys, imo.

Also, while people don't like the idea of luxury taxes, those are practical mechanisms that help manage a real problem: MLB teams have hugely different revenue levels and they need some way to balance competition. There are other mechanisms to accomlish this, but you need to do something other than hope it will work to let teams spend what they want.

Another example is a max salary. What we've seen in the NBA is the max salary effectively shifts money from the top-paid players to the middle. You can like that or not like it as a philosophical question, but MLB could consider this as well if the true goal is helping more players. That is not to say MLB players shouldn't simply seek a bigger piece of the pie, it is saying there's a few different ways to meet the interest of helping more players and not all the constraints in doing so are choices made by owners---some are made by MLBPA too.
 

Minneapolis Millers

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One thing about negotiations - parties don't always negotiate in their best interest. Arbitration is a gereat example of this. IIRC (and I"m pretty sure I'm right about this) the owners were warned that arbitration was the biggest give-away they could make. It's basically guaranteed raises for players who may not have "earned" the raise. The owners gave it away and they absolutely regret it.

Arbitration is a huge windfall for the players. That's why earlier abritration is a non-starter for the owners.
Wait, has this ever been demonstrated to be true? “Windfall” compared to the reserve clause era, but certainly not compared to FA costs, right? Some players shouldn’t get a raise. Some should get much bigger raises. How does it average out? Pretty sure the owners still experience a net profit here.

Also, I worked for a nonuniuonized nonprofit for years that used a step salary schedule where everyone got a raise each year. They were tiny, and the schedule had to be adjusted every 5 or so years to respond to falling further behind other agencies, but still, it gave a raise to everyone whether they “earned” it or not. Also standard fare for CBAs. So… it’s not unusual.
 

Murderer's Crow

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This thread kind of annoys me. Not because some of you haven't laid out arguments which both sides would appreciate you understanding but because somehow everyone here seems convinced to give a shit about either the players or the owners. I just really don't care. We should only care about ourselves and how the negotiations impact us as fans. You know, the ones who fund ALL of their paychecks. The health of the sport is not going to materially change because owners agree to 41% revenue share instead of 37%.

I'm gonna shoot from the hip here a little but I think not having an individual contract cap hurts the sport. Contracts that are 10 years $400m can wreck a team's flexibility when it is fully guaranteed and force a team to hurt their long term competitiveness trying to unload. Also, as teams like NY and LA can easily pay a couple players $40m each, Baltimore and Tampa never will be able to. Basketball's max contract system could help alleviate this issue. More competition means I have more fun.

Instead of owners saving that money, raise the minimum salaries. Maybe we're talking 6 years $275m or so max contract.

Also, our offseasons are boring as Fuck. Max contracts would move things along and help create drama during the selection process.

I also think if players get a bigger piece of the revenue pie, ticket prices and concessions are probably going to shoot up. As a fan, I don't need more expensive hot dogs so Aaron Judge can get $10m more in his 1st year of arbitration.
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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Wait, has this ever been demonstrated to be true? “Windfall” compared to the reserve clause era, but certainly not compared to FA costs, right? Some players shouldn’t get a raise. Some should get much bigger raises. How does it average out? Pretty sure the owners still experience a net profit here.

Also, I worked for a nonuniuonized nonprofit for years that used a step salary schedule where everyone got a raise each year. They were tiny, and the schedule had to be adjusted every 5 or so years to respond to falling further behind other agencies, but still, it gave a raise to everyone whether they “earned” it or not. Also standard fare for CBAs. So… it’s not unusual.
Here's an article from 1990 that discusses why owners hate arbitration: https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/sports/1990/02/26/baseballs-battle-line-is-defined/46a56be5-e5ca-4c03-b7fc-7e775530f57a/.

In 2017, this article - https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/2017/02/23/ap-study-113-percent-average-raise-in-baseball-arbitration/98314284/ - found that arbitration resulted in 117 percent raises for the players. And the biggest issue for the owners is that the raises keep growing off a higher base as arbitration is usually deciding between a hefty raise versus a heftier raise. And with each year, the previous arbitration decisions become the baseline, so salaries are going to continually rise.

That's not to say that baseball needs to jettison arbitration. But the owners have been - since 1990 - trying to put some checks on arbitration. This year, I believe the owners proposed a metric-based arbitration to replace hearings. So yeah, the MLBPA's arbitration proposal was pretty much a non-starter and the MLBPA knew it.

Not that the MLBPA was wrong to put it in their initial proposal but everyone knows there are a few major issues to resolve and the owners aren't going to make any concessions around arbitration.
 

Minneapolis Millers

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Here's an article from 1990 that discusses why owners hate arbitration: https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/sports/1990/02/26/baseballs-battle-line-is-defined/46a56be5-e5ca-4c03-b7fc-7e775530f57a/.

In 2017, this article - https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/2017/02/23/ap-study-113-percent-average-raise-in-baseball-arbitration/98314284/ - found that arbitration resulted in 117 percent raises for the players. And the biggest issue for the owners is that the raises keep growing off a higher base as arbitration is usually deciding between a hefty raise versus a heftier raise. And with each year, the previous arbitration decisions become the baseline, so salaries are going to continually rise.

That's not to say that baseball needs to jettison arbitration. But the owners have been - since 1990 - trying to put some checks on arbitration. This year, I believe the owners proposed a metric-based arbitration to replace hearings. So yeah, the MLBPA's arbitration proposal was pretty much a non-starter and the MLBPA knew it.

Not that the MLBPA was wrong to put it in their initial proposal but everyone knows there are a few major issues to resolve and the owners aren't going to make any concessions around arbitration.
That stuff doesn’t address the question. What’s a player worth? If teams will pay $8M on the FA market for a win, why are arbitration awards that go from $500k to $1M for players worth, say, 1 WAR on average, a “windfall” for the players? Seems like a gross windfall for the owners. And I’m sure that if we made it all free market, those younger players, as a group, would see their salaries rise, while vets would see theirs slightly dip. Overall, left without safety rails, owners would likely drive prices up themselves, across the board, in a true free market. Happens everywhere else. That’s why players would gladly trade enhanced arb for true FA.
 
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mikcou

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Here's an article from 1990 that discusses why owners hate arbitration: https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/sports/1990/02/26/baseballs-battle-line-is-defined/46a56be5-e5ca-4c03-b7fc-7e775530f57a/.

In 2017, this article - https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/2017/02/23/ap-study-113-percent-average-raise-in-baseball-arbitration/98314284/ - found that arbitration resulted in 117 percent raises for the players. And the biggest issue for the owners is that the raises keep growing off a higher base as arbitration is usually deciding between a hefty raise versus a heftier raise. And with each year, the previous arbitration decisions become the baseline, so salaries are going to continually rise.

That's not to say that baseball needs to jettison arbitration. But the owners have been - since 1990 - trying to put some checks on arbitration. This year, I believe the owners proposed a metric-based arbitration to replace hearings. So yeah, the MLBPA's arbitration proposal was pretty much a non-starter and the MLBPA knew it.

Not that the MLBPA was wrong to put it in their initial proposal but everyone knows there are a few major issues to resolve and the owners aren't going to make any concessions around arbitration.

If your point is that the owners would love to have the old reserve system where they didnt have to pay anyone, then sure I guess arbitration is a bad outcome for them. That system is long gone and any norm based approach would have arbitration as an enormous win for the owners - they pay roughly 50/70/90% of FMV for a player for years 4 through 6 with no long term commitment. Earlier in the thread you mentioned that old CBAs shouldnt be relevant, choose one. Arbitration is a massive cost savings for owners.

You've also mentioned that baseball players have the best deal of all major sport. I cant see how when:
1. Free agency occurs after six years (if the player is lucky and hasnt been yanked around into essentially seven). Most leagues are four with some exceptions (e.g., 5th year option for 1st round picks in the NFL).
2. League minimum pay is the lowest. In combination with #1, MLB has the biggest pool of very cheap labor.
3. Major league careers start at the oldest age after years of playing for what can only be described as poverty wages. NFL practice squad pays 5-6x of what a minor leaguer makes.
4. Players share of revenue isnt higher than other leagues and has been declining for years (48-48.5% for the NFL, 49-51% for the NBA, 50% for the NHL; estimates now at 45-48% for MLB). This used to be where MLB players made their hay v. other leagues as they once had shares approaching 60%, but almost none of the revenue growth over the past decade has gone to the players -- salaries have been completely flat for the past five years.

Where exactly is the great benefit for the players as compared to other leagues? The old saying of pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. The owners have done a remarkable job of essentially freezing pay with large revenue growth (and yes the players took a risk and made what can only be considered a significant tactical mistake to not move for salary certainty as a percentage of revenue 10-15 years ago) - that is a hard feat to accomplish in a true skilled employee service industry and all against a societal backdrop of the American populace generally demanding more from their employers and becoming much more attuned to labor issues. There is a ton of owner risk in trying to destroy all union rights and making the perfect be the enemy of the excellent.
 

soxhop411

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MLB with the absolute worst take I have heard.
View: https://twitter.com/EvanDrellich/status/1492344234871033858
MLB argues for minor leaguers to stay unpaid in spring training: "It is the players that obtain the greater benefit from the training opportunities that they are afforded than the clubs, who actually just incur the cost of having to provide that training”
]
this seems to not bode well for the negotiations tomorrow.

MLB’s argument is the equivalent of saying a Chef should work for free because it’s the restaurant who bought all the ingredients

Also. This is the same hill that the NCAA ended up dying on in their failed efforts to stop the NIL movement (almost the exact same argument). So congrats to MLB for trying to be more craven than the NCAA!
 
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wade boggs chicken dinner

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That stuff doesn’t address the question. What’s a player worth? If teams will pay $8M on the FA market for a win, why are arbitration awards that go from $500k to $1M for players worth, say, 1 WAR on average, a “windfall” for the players? Seems like a gross windfall for the owners. And I’m sure that if we made it all free market, those younger players, as a group, would see their salaries rise, while vets would see theirs slightly dip. Overall, left without safety rails, owners would likely drive prices up themselves, across the board, in a true free market. Happens everywhere else. That’s why players would gladly trade enhanced arb for true FA.
No one is suggesting that players are getting paid what they are worth; I'm only suggesting that the owners don't like arbitration as they believe it contributes to salary inflation so expanding it is likely a non-starter in the negotiations.
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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If your point is that the owners would love to have the old reserve system where they didnt have to pay anyone, then sure I guess arbitration is a bad outcome for them. That system is long gone and any norm based approach would have arbitration as an enormous win for the owners - they pay roughly 50/70/90% of FMV for a player for years 4 through 6 with no long term commitment. Earlier in the thread you mentioned that old CBAs shouldnt be relevant, choose one. Arbitration is a massive cost savings for owners.

You've also mentioned that baseball players have the best deal of all major sport. I cant see how when:
1. Free agency occurs after six years (if the player is lucky and hasnt been yanked around into essentially seven). Most leagues are four with some exceptions (e.g., 5th year option for 1st round picks in the NFL).
2. League minimum pay is the lowest. In combination with #1, MLB has the biggest pool of very cheap labor.
3. Major league careers start at the oldest age after years of playing for what can only be described as poverty wages. NFL practice squad pays 5-6x of what a minor leaguer makes.
4. Players share of revenue isnt higher than other leagues and has been declining for years (48-48.5% for the NFL, 49-51% for the NBA, 50% for the NHL; estimates now at 45-48% for MLB). This used to be where MLB players made their hay v. other leagues as they once had shares approaching 60%, but almost none of the revenue growth over the past decade has gone to the players -- salaries have been completely flat for the past five years.

Where exactly is the great benefit for the players as compared to other leagues? The old saying of pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. The owners have done a remarkable job of essentially freezing pay with large revenue growth (and yes the players took a risk and made what can only be considered a significant tactical mistake to not move for salary certainty as a percentage of revenue 10-15 years ago) - that is a hard feat to accomplish in a true skilled employee service industry and all against a societal backdrop of the American populace generally demanding more from their employers and becoming much more attuned to labor issues. There is a ton of owner risk in trying to destroy all union rights and making the perfect be the enemy of the excellent.
If you want to argue that one of other sports has a better CBA than baseball, I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts. If there is indeed a way to have the players do better under another, that's a direction that the players should go. But I don't think they will as the players prefer the current system (and the owners would be thrilled to have a hard cap).

Also, the 2018 article linked below suggests that major league player revenue had been pretty close to 50%; however, when one includes minor leagues, that number jumps up several % points.

I'm sorry if I am being redundant but once more if the players can get the owners to agree to a salary floor with ghe lucury limits not moving in addition to universal DH and dropping draft pick compensation, I'll be super happy for them. Just don't see that happening though. And I don't see any "meeting of the minds" anytime soon.

https://www.theringer.com/mlb/2018/2/21/17035624/mlb-revenue-sharing-owners-players-free-agency-rob-manfred
 

mikcou

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If you want to argue that one of other sports has a better CBA than baseball, I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts. If there is indeed a way to have the players do better under another, that's a direction that the players should go. But I don't think they will as the players prefer the current system (and the owners would be thrilled to have a hard cap).

Also, the 2018 article linked below suggests that major league player revenue had been pretty close to 50%; however, when one includes minor leagues, that number jumps up several % points.

I'm sorry if I am being redundant but once more if the players can get the owners to agree to a salary floor with ghe lucury limits not moving in addition to universal DH and dropping draft pick compensation, I'll be super happy for them. Just don't see that happening though. And I don't see any "meeting of the minds" anytime soon.

https://www.theringer.com/mlb/2018/2/21/17035624/mlb-revenue-sharing-owners-players-free-agency-rob-manfred
Thats article misses the broader point by closing the years and it even explicitly acknowledges that player's shares were higher in the 90s and 2000s (even after the luxury tax was initially implemented) when they trended at 60% of revenue. It wasnt until the 2010s that the share fell to the low 50s.

The data is also old. There has been no meaningful salary growth between the 2017 season and 2021 season despite revenue growth from 9B to $10.7 billion in 2019. Payroll in 2021 was the lowest since 2015 at $4.05B and never increased since that 2017 season. We dont know what 2021 revenue is yet, but theres a pretty good reason to believe that the share for 40 man rosters is in the low 40s or high 30s. Maybe it bounces back from COVID with the league bounce back in 2021, but even if we look at 2019, its still in the low 40s ($4.5B out of $10.7B).

This is a natural occurrence of having a harsh tax at the top that most teams wont go over and no floor on the other side. If the owners want "cost certainty" as you say, they should be happy to sign a 50/50 split (or 48/52 if you want to peg to the NFL). There's no way they sign that because this isnt about cost certainty - its about shrinking the players allocation of the pie in the context of rapidly growing pie.

Instituting a floor would be a big win, but its probably not enough (unless the floor was much higher than what has been discussed). Careers are shorter and the current 6 years of control results in minimal compensation - the owners probably wont move off of the six, but either arbitration after two years or an increase of the minimum salary to $1M are very reasonable.
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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This is a natural occurrence of having a harsh tax at the top that most teams wont go over and no floor on the other side. If the owners want "cost certainty" as you say, they should be happy to sign a 50/50 split (or 48/52 if you want to peg to the NFL). There's no way they sign that because this isnt about cost certainty - its about shrinking the players allocation of the pie in the context of rapidly growing pie.
I think the owners would be happy to sign a NBA-type deal with the split being somewhere around 50% (depending on the definition of "Baseball-Related Revenues". I don't think the players would though. And that's exactly my point. If the players think the owners would sign a NBA-type deal - just for example - and the players could do as well or even better if they can define "Baseball-Related Revenues" and take 52% of it, that's the kind of proposal that could "get to yes" (as PKB put it) with fewer games missed.

Here's an article that better describes what I am trying to say about the contentiousness over "cost certainty." The article confirms what we are talking about - the players want a bigger share than they have gotten recently and the owners want that flat or reduced but the players are also resisting moves towards a hard tax while the owners obviously want one. https://sports.yahoo.com/a-fight-over-this-issue-looms-large-as-mlb-lockout-threatens-spring-training-223612707.html
 

mikcou

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I think the owners would be happy to sign a NBA-type deal with the split being somewhere around 50% (depending on the definition of "Baseball-Related Revenues". I don't think the players would though. And that's exactly my point. If the players think the owners would sign a NBA-type deal - just for example - and the players could do as well or even better if they can define "Baseball-Related Revenues" and take 52% of it, that's the kind of proposal that could "get to yes" (as PKB put it) with fewer games missed.

Here's an article that better describes what I am trying to say about the contentiousness over "cost certainty." The article confirms what we are talking about - the players want a bigger share than they have gotten recently and the owners want that flat or reduced but the players are also resisting moves towards a hard tax while the owners obviously want one. https://sports.yahoo.com/a-fight-over-this-issue-looms-large-as-mlb-lockout-threatens-spring-training-223612707.html
Yes, thats the issue. Why would the owners ever sign an NBA style deal? Their long term planning on the move towards a hard cap has worked incredibly well.

If I had to guess a starting owners proposal on revenue share would be somewhere in the mid 30s. Why? Because thats likely where 2021 was. 2019 was getting close to down to 40% and 2021 has higher revenues and lower pay. I'm pretty confident that the a 50/50 split is so far out of the owner's minds because you know they locked out of a CBA that has never produced worse than 50% and recent trends are closer to 40%. A 50% split for 2019 would have been $800M in incremental payroll costs. Either the tax line would need to go seriously up or a floor would need to be set at like $150M+ to capture that much.

Why would the owners throw away 20 years of incredible progress for them especially when they know they have shown the ability to craft deals that decouple revenues from player costs?
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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Yes, thats the issue. Why would the owners ever sign an NBA style deal? Their long term planning on the move towards a hard cap has worked incredibly well.

If I had to guess a starting owners proposal on revenue share would be somewhere in the mid 30s. Why? Because thats likely where 2021 was. 2019 was getting close to down to 40% and 2021 has higher revenues and lower pay. I'm pretty confident that the a 50/50 split is so far out of the owner's minds because you know they locked out of a CBA that has never produced worse than 50% and recent trends are closer to 40%. A 50% split for 2019 would have been $800M in incremental payroll costs. Either the tax line would need to go seriously up or a floor would need to be set at like $150M+ to capture that much.

Why would the owners throw away 20 years of incredible progress for them especially when they know they have shown the ability to craft deals that decouple revenues from player costs?
Sounds like you see things differently, but to me, the owners proposal was closer to a NBA-type deal - tax with more stringent penalties and a salary floor to guarantee. I also disagree that the owners proposal would be in the mid-30s as they proposed 50% during the pandemic so mid-30s would be a slap in the face.

One other thing that player could try to include to increase their overall share is gambling revenues: https://www.knbr.com/2021/12/08/why-one-sports-economist-thinks-mlb-players-are-missing-the-boat-in-lockout-negotiations/

Finally, here's an article from Andrew Zimbalist that includes estimated numbers on player share of revenues: https://www.sportico.com/leagues/baseball/2021/andrew-zimbalist-baseballs-new-labor-war-1234647914/. If MLB did go to a NFL- or NBA-type system, another key issue would be how much credit the owners get for minor leagues expenditures, which are significant.
 

nvalvo

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To be clear, young players are not the most productive, they are the most productive once you factor in what they get paid compared to veterans. This is why younger players need to get paid more, their relatively low salaries mess up the whole system (except for the superstars, who get paid huge bucks under any system).
I agree that this is the real issue. People talk about service time manipulation in terms of the Kris Bryant-type stars, but I think it's probably more important to more or less fungible relief pitchers, who accrue service time the slowest (because they are so frequently optioned) and are also (as pitchers) some of the players at the highest risk of career-ending injury. (The Cubs may have stolen some money from Bryant by calling him up late, but he's already earned tens of millions of dollars and is likely to ink a nine-figure deal in a few weeks. He's fine.) When we think about players who wash out with just a few years' service time spread over years of their twenties, a lot of those players are relief pitchers.

E.g. a guy like Phillips Valdez is never going to reach free agency. He's a 29 year-old league average reliever, and while he's substantially contributed to three major league seasons, he is shy of two seasons of service time. His career earnings have likely been well shy of $1m, and he may never reach that point.

The smart teams now have whole stables of optionable relievers who bounce up and down, not due so much to their own performance, but specifically so they can (as a group) be worked harder than is actually sustainable for the athletes' shoulders and elbows, and then swapped out to get some rest on a less-demanding schedule in the minors — during which time their salary drops ~85%. Such players can contribute to many major league team seasons while accruing service time quite slowly, and thus take forever to reach arbitration, let alone free agency.

This is good roster construction, but morally dubious. Players used this way should be compensated for it. I think that a revision of the option system would be potentially valuable here.

This could be done in a number of ways:
  • You could raise the salary for 40-man players not on the 26-man roster to something closer to the league minimum. Maybe this could increase with the number of option years that had been used.
  • You could give an option bonus: either each option year, or perhaps each time a player gets optioned, the team would cut him a check. Maybe the value of this bonus could increase as the player's option years were used up.
  • Or the idea that I think is the most interesting, actually: grant optioned players some service time. Depending how you designed it, this wouldn't have much of an impact on legitimate uses of optioning — i.e., when a player genuinely was not ready to contribute at the major league level and needed to be sent back to the minors — but it would impose a meaningful cost on some of the more questionable roster manipulations, by getting players closer to arbitration faster.
None of this is on the table, but I think this is a more promising avenue than the pre-arb bonus pools that are actually being discussed, which (because they are based on WAR) are if anything likely to exacerbate these issues.
 

nvalvo

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But really, arbitration is so central to the sport's political economy because it unifies the MLBPA: it is the mechanism that makes the fringe guys perceive their interests in common with the superstars, whose arb awards and FA deals set the comps that they will use to establish their own value down the road.

If I were negotiating on behalf of the owners, I would be willing to trade quite a bit to get rid of it in favor of a more individualistic system.
 

mikcou

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Sounds like you see things differently, but to me, the owners proposal was closer to a NBA-type deal - tax with more stringent penalties and a salary floor to guarantee. I also disagree that the owners proposal would be in the mid-30s as they proposed 50% during the pandemic so mid-30s would be a slap in the face.

One other thing that player could try to include to increase their overall share is gambling revenues: https://www.knbr.com/2021/12/08/why-one-sports-economist-thinks-mlb-players-are-missing-the-boat-in-lockout-negotiations/

Finally, here's an article from Andrew Zimbalist that includes estimated numbers on player share of revenues: https://www.sportico.com/leagues/baseball/2021/andrew-zimbalist-baseballs-new-labor-war-1234647914/. If MLB did go to a NFL- or NBA-type system, another key issue would be how much credit the owners get for minor leagues expenditures, which are significant.

The owners offered 50% of revenue in lieu of player's salaries in a year in which they knew up front that at least 40% of their revenue was out the door just by nature of not having fans in stands (ended up being down close to 70%) and that player contracts as designed were going to generate significant losses. I dont see how thats at all relevant to what they would offer now post-pandemic with them rolling in full revenues again.

The owner's proposal was for a $100M salary floor - a level that almost every team exceeds. In 2019 for CBT purposes, 6 teams were below that floor (one was at $97M):
  1. White Sox - $97M ($3M under)
  2. Marlins - $75M (25M under)
  3. A's - $95M ($5M under)
  4. Rays - $67M ($33M under)
  5. Pirates - $78M (22M under)
  6. Orioles - $82M ($18M under)
Players would pick up about $106M from that. Relative pocket change (less than 1% of revenues). But, they wanted a $180M luxury tax threshold in exchange for the floor with heightened penalties, which almost assuredly would wipe out a good chunk of that pickup. These are heavily calculated offers and designed to be offers that give rights that are close to meaningless in the grand scheme of the sport. A $100M floor doesnt really do much, as almost all teams will surpass it - its basically a status-quo offer with significant upside to continue to shrink player share through a lower tax threshold and higher associated penalties.

I dont think theres any credible reason to include minor league costs - they are not part of the union. All sports have other personnel costs - coaches make way more in the NFL than they do in MLB - we dont include them in the player's compensation.
 

canderson

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MLB and MLBPA met for less than an hour. The MLB offer must have been another joke. Which kidding yesterday they said MiLB players should play be happy to play for free isn’t a surprise.
 

soxhop411

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MLB and MLBPA met for less than an hour. The MLB offer must have been another joke. Which kidding yesterday they said MiLB players should play be happy to play for free isn’t a surprise.
Yup.
View: https://twitter.com/EvanDrellich/status/1492577484239478790
View: https://twitter.com/JesseRogersESPN/status/1492577919624957965

but please tell me it’s the MLBPA who is not acting in good faith.

View: https://twitter.com/ScotBertram/status/1492579925307625473
 
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Minneapolis Millers

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No one is suggesting that players are getting paid what they are worth; I'm only suggesting that the owners don't like arbitration as they believe it contributes to salary inflation so expanding it is likely a non-starter in the negotiations.
Ah, well, yes, agree with that. I was puzzled by the concept of “windfall” here, since that suggested payment above value. But there is inflation everywhere, so we should expect the owners to move somewhat here, no (even if they don’t really want to)? They can still somewhat rely on relatively low CBT thresholds to keep overall costs/inflation down, couldn’t they?

Personally, I want the floor to rise, along the lines outlined by Nvalvo above. I care a bit less about the ceiling.
 
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soxhop411

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Sorry to keep sharing Sheehan tweets, but he is IMO very on top of this and he has no ulterior motive except wanting baseball to happen, like most of us.

View: https://twitter.com/joe_sheehan/status/1492592943110184971?s=21
Yah. Owners have their heads up their behind as they are apparently shocked at the reaction the players had to todays offer
View: https://twitter.com/MikeSilvermanBB/status/1492600640295559168

the owners apparently won’t be happy until the MLBPA drops all of their demands.
 

Mugsy's Jock

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View: https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/1492625832493342720


so then todays proposal was not in good faith, like Manfred said it would be.
Is that bad faith?

You're 1 foot apart in terms. You know you can move 4-8 inches, but you'd like the other side to move too. So you offer one inch.

I'm not saying that strategy shows much ambition to protect the game this year, or to develop a better relationship between MLB and MLBPA... but I wouldn't call it bad faith. They're not obliged to suddenly jump to their bottom line number.
 

pokey_reese

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Genuinely, in many of these specific instances, what would happen if they just met in the middle? If the MLBPA hadn't refused the third party negotiation help, and they just said "ok, you want $100 million for arb players and you want $10 mil? It's $50 million. Next issue..." Who walks away? Owners, right?
 

In my lifetime

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The 1st offer was lowering the luxury tax threshold and adding a floor. I wrote at the time that is was posturing, the owners knew they could not lower the threshold, but the floor was the start to productive talks. Now the owners have increased albeit very slightly the threshold. The two sides are really not that far apart. The MLBPA knows they aren't going to get a 273 M threshold by 2026 (no more than the owners were ever going to get the threshold lowered. So they go back and forth a few times and settle on a floor number of 100 M or slightly more; plus a threshold of 218 + 4 or 5 M each year. I would be surprised if the sides can't bridge the issues. I still would prefer to see some money filtering down to minor league players, but unfortunately, neither side is looking out for their interest.
 

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Meyer (MLBPA) and Halem (MLB) had a 20 minute side meeting according to Evan Drelich.

It's interesting to hear that a number of hard-line players didn't want to even respond to the owners last offer, which seems fair as the owners are only making negotiating concessions that come with strings and conditions that ultimately nullify their worth to the MLBPA. It looks like this time the players are attempting to reach out without negotiating against themselves.

There were three buckets MLB said it won't make changes to: expanding arbitration eligibility, revenue sharing between owners and getting players to free agency earlier. The players are no longer attempting to change the third of those topics, getting players to free agency. But the other two remain.

Thursday was the first time the players had moved off their initial request of getting all players to arbitration after two years of service time, but fewer than three. Now, the updated proposal is for 80 percent of those players. Under the last deal in baseball, 22 percent of players with at least two years of service time, but fewer than three, are eligible for arbitration — and best known as Super Two's.

The question is whether MLB can or would eventually agree to any expansion, or whether its position that there can be no expansion at all will remain unchanged.

...From the player perspective, this was a significant give. There are some hardline players who didn't want to make the moves that were made Thursday.
 

PedroKsBambino

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Passan reports there are "multiple" bargaining sessions being discussed in the coming days.

Putting aside the talk radio-worthy posts which try to make this a morality play, it is in fact pretty clear both sides are in fact negotiating and trading offers and concessions. They are, I would guess, as much making those offers and statements at this point to manage their own less-rational actors as to get to an agreement on that specific offer.

If I were guessing, both sides realize that the window to make a deal and not lose revenue/value in 2022 is closing and they are getting serious about closing the gap now. The players last offer was not a realistic one, nor was the owner's before that. Based on the elements of the offers they are each adjusting as they go back and forth, they both seem to have a sense what is actually achievable, so I'm cautiously optimistic now.
 

curly2

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I really hope they go with the players' proposal of 12 playoff teams. I think that's too many, but 14 in a 30-team league would be awful. It should still be special to make the playoffs. When half the teams make it, it isn't.

(I know I sound like the old fart I am, but I also wish they would get a 20-second pitch clock and enforce it, so I'm not a get-off-my-lawn type).
 

PedroKsBambino

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The players don't have any real incentive to seek fewer playoff teams---they just realize that is the most valuable chip they have since playoff games have direct revenue implications. So that is positioning to trade it for other stuff later.

That is an example of why it is insane to be characterizing publicly-reported offers as being in good faith or bad faith...they are both playing the game here.
 

Max Power

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That's not true. More teams in the playoffs decreases the marginal value of a regular season win, which means teams are less likely to invest in elite talent. And because of the way playoff bonus pools are constructed, most players get paid much less for those games than regular season ones. Extra playoff teams are an overall negative for the players.
 

Bosoxian

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That's not true. More teams in the playoffs decreases the marginal value of a regular season win, which means teams are less likely to invest in elite talent. And because of the way playoff bonus pools are constructed, most players get paid much less for those games than regular season ones. Extra playoff teams are an overall negative for the players.
Although I could see teams investing in elite starting pitching hoping that tilts a short series their way
 

Max Power

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Although I could see teams investing in elite starting pitching hoping that tilts a short series their way
That's not the way the game is played anymore. Seeing a starter go long enough to qualify for a win was shocking in last year's playoffs. The devaluation of starting pitching also suppresses salaries.
 

PedroKsBambino

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That's not true. More teams in the playoffs decreases the marginal value of a regular season win, which means teams are less likely to invest in elite talent. And because of the way playoff bonus pools are constructed, most players get paid much less for those games than regular season ones. Extra playoff teams are an overall negative for the players.
I don't believe that is at all true logically or empirically. Do you think the trend in salaries since playoffs did actually expand is consistent with that---I see the opposite in the data. I also think it misunderstands the buy-side market---expanded playoffs energizes more teams to invest and compete to make the playoffs, which is what we've seen from MLB and more recently in the NBA since the play-in was introduced. So, salaries going up and more teams competing is what we've seen---those are good things for players.

I agree that in a very theoretical way asking the players to play more games is bad for them. But in the real world, 1) the players want to be in the playoffs and 2) they make substantially more money in the playoffs, especially the younger players, than not making the playoffs. This is purely a tactic, and everyone on both sides knows it. To be clear, there's nothing wrong with that---there's a lot of tactics from each party and that is to be expected as this is simply a negotiation.
 

BringBackMo

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You seem to suggest that the rise in player salaries since the MLB playoffs were first expanded is at least partially attributable to the expansion. The massive growth in league revenues since the playoffs were expanded in 1969, 1994, and 2012; the explosion in entrainment-industry compensation in general over that time; the identification of sports as a means to reach sizable audiences in the streaming era; and the simple effect of 50 years of inflation seem to me to have contributed much more to the growth of player salaries than increasing the number of teams that make the playoffs each year.

I’m not sure what empirical evidence exists for the effects of expanded playoff slots on team payroll. In this Baseball Prospectus article, Jonathan Judge offers up something that feels more like conventional wisdom but may well be rooted in somebody’s research: “Likewise, ownership continues to propose an expanded postseason. Under the current regime, players understandably see this as a mechanism for owners to spend less money on player salaries, and get to the postseason anyway.”

At very least, that article tells us that the players, and someone who writes intelligently about the game, are far from convinced that expanding the playoffs will lead to higher payrolls.
 
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