The New York Yankees and the other 29 teams are at a post-season standstill, as there is a lockout in place because the owners and players couldn’t come to a new CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) at the expiration of the old agreement on December 1st. Meanwhile, the wheels have fallen off the wagon with no transactions or trades being made.
Through all of this, the fans are the losers with nothing happening. Many fans aren’t aware of what is at stake with a new agreement. That is not surprising because neither side is talking for the most part, and although negotiations are going on, they are moving at a snail’s pace. So, what exactly is at stake for the game, and what are the primary issues to be resolved?
- The Players want more money sooner in their careers.
- They want changes to arbitration or an earlier path to free agency.
- Will there be a universal designated hitter?
- Robot strike zone in some form.
- Limiting pitcher throws to first base.
- Reducing the distance between home plate and the pitching rubber.
- Will the 10th inning rule continue?
- Will doubleheaders be 7 or 9 innings?
- Slightly larger bases with a less-slippery surface
- A requirement that all four infielders have their cleats within the outer boundary of the infield dirt when the pitch is delivered.
- A requirement that pitchers must step off the rubber to attempt a pickoff.
- Ending the shift.
- Players want to secure a more significant portion of the pie this off-season.
All of these items would be up to discussion in a perfect world. The fact is that they probably won’t be put into the negotiations by the owners. If they do, the players could look for a quid pro quo situation, where they accept a rule change in exchange for a financial concession. Many rule changes could lead to a better, faster-played game to benefit the fans that most think is too long. But it is not likely these rules will be discussed. The owners realize that Commissioner Manfred can make any of these changes on his own, giving the union a one-year notice.
Many fans have long complained that the 9 inning game lasts too long and that some extra-inning games are downright excruciating. In 1975 the average length of a 9 inning game was 2 hours and 25 minutes. In 2021 that climbed to 3 hours and 8 minutes and has increased in each of the last three years. Many AL East games last up to 4 hours or moreÂ The longest game in 2021 was 5 and a half hours, between the Dodgers and the Padres, and that is with the man on second rule. Something must be done as the game of baseball is losing fans.
The main problem in these negotiations is that both sides are looking to improve their financial best interest, while what is good for the game and the fans takes a backseat. If they worked with each other in good faith and did what was best for the game, neither side would likely be hurt unequally.
The owners have always wanted a salary cap, which likely would be good for the game but would hurt superstar players. Knowing that the players will have nothing to do with that proposal, although the owners are not making that an issue in this new agreement. It should be noted that the NFL, NBA, and NHL all have salary caps. There are two concessions that could be made that would likely appease both parties and could lead to further agreements. One is for the owners to raise starting pay for young players. The union could offer to create an international draft.
What comes out of these negotiations, nobody knows. We also don’t know how long the lockout will last or if the lockout will prevent the start of spring training or even the beginning of the 2020 season. For the benefit of the game and the fans, both sides will have to make concessions to end this lockout sooner than later.
There are a couple of reasons that we give the owners the edge in the negotiations, and that is they can play the long game. Their stakes in the sport are almost guaranteed to stretch decades longer than any athlete’s playing career. Right now, the owners are relatively happy with the economic status quo. The players aren’t and are tired of the owners coming out on top in these CBA negotiations. They have said that they are not going to allow that this year. So this synopsis does not spell for an early end in the labor negotiations.