New York Yankees/MLB News: Blame game makes more progress than the CBA

The New York Yankees and the other 29 major league teams scattered around the country have spent most of the long postseason, unable to do anything to improve their teams for a new season of baseball. A season that now seems may never happen with the complete collapse of the Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations and at least a delay in the start of the baseball season.

On December 1, 2021, Commissioner Rob Manfred lowered the hammer on the negotiations by imposing a lockout. A lockout, he said, was necessary when the two sides in the CBA negotiations could not forge a new agreement to guide them for the next five years. That lockout forbids any team from making any transactions or even talking to players or agents about the upcoming season until a new agreement has been reached.

This was particularly harmful to the New York Yankees. While other teams scooped up nearly half of all free agents before the lockout, the Yankees sat on their hands, just watching, while having significant holes to fill and upgrades to be made.

Now that the deadline for a new agreement reached and three spring training games have already been canceled, Manfred has announced that the first two series of the regular season will be canceled. For the New York Yankees, that means they will have one less series with the Texas Rangers and the Houston Astros. With no negotiations scheduled, it is likely, even more, series will be canceled, or there may be no 2022 baseball season at all. The work stoppage in 1994 led to 232 canceled games.

Now with nothing happening, obviously, each side in the negotiations is blaming each other for the cancelation of opening day. But, it’s just not the sides, the fans are disappointed and angry that millionaires and billionaires couldn’t resolve problems for the good of the game.

The blame game is now in full swing, with many players calling out MLB for their inability to come to an agreement and start the season on time. Even Yankee pitcher Gerrit Cole has scolded the league. Max Scherzer, the newly hired Mets ace, is not only blaming the league but possibly the owner of the Yankees, Hal Steinbrenner.

So far, it looks like the sides have only agreed upon a universal DH and some minor concessions from each side. But the main issue of money, and how much each gets, is still as contested at the very beginning of the negotiations.

The league and union don’t seem to be too interested in resuming negotiations. Expanded playoffs are not even complete. Meanwhile, the financial issues at the heart of this dispute; minimum salaries and CBT thresholds — are as divisive as they’ve been all winter. It is likely that the only talk in the coming days will be who to blame for this mess. One must remember that every day this goes on without a resolution is another game lost.

 

New York Yankees/MLB News: Texas Rangers and Houston Astros series canceled, no CBA reached

Many thought it would end like this, and it has, a new Collective Bargaining Agreement could not be reached. The result is that MLB has canceled the first two series of the new season. The New York Yankees will miss the season opener with the Texas Rangers and the series with the Houston Astros. Next up would be the home opener with the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium and the series with the Toronto Blue Jays.

What is even more discouraging is that as of this morning, there are no new talks scheduled to resolve the situation, which may lead to even more canceled games.

What is most sad is that neither the owners nor players seem to care about the fans that are eager to see baseball games played across the country after a long postseason with any games to watch. Why? Because both sides could not solve greed problems, both wanted more money.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan has reported:

“The concerns of our fans are at the very top of our consideration list.” — Rob Manfred, on the day MLB canceled regular-season games, during a league-initiated lockout. He also reported: MLB has canceled the first two series of the season.”

After the MLB owners and the players’ union failed to reach a new collective bargaining agreement, by M.L.B.’s self-imposed deadline Tuesday evening, Commissioner Rob Manfred said the season would not start on March 31. Due to logistical problems, Manfred also reaffirmed that the games could be canceled, not rescheduled.

The announcement was made Tuesday at Roger Dean Stadium, where the Cardinals and Marlins would usually be having spring training but instead hosted the talks. Two spring training games have already been canceled as MLB players are trying to stay in shape at local high school fields in both Florida and Arizona.

Meanwhile, these are the first MLB games to be canceled since the 1994-1995 player walkout. Then 232 regular-season games were canceled. Manfred has this to say about the canceled games:

“I had hoped against hope I wouldn’t have to have this press conference where I am going to cancel some regular-season games,” Manfred said, adding, “I want to assure our fans that our failure to reach an agreement was not due to a lack of effort by either party.”

How sincere that statement is is anyone’s guess. It is hard to believe that two fully qualified negotiators could not agree in over 100 days of negotiations. The whole 2022 season is in question, with both sides’ heels dug in. 

Yankees/MLB News: New owners’ offer won’t help end the CBA deadlock

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For the New York Yankees and other MLB teams, the owner’s newest offer won’t draw the end of the CBA impasse any closer. In fact, it is likely to assure a late start to spring training and the start of the 2022 baseball season. With the pitchers and catchers scheduled to show up today, the spring training is now officially delayed.

In the MLB’s latest offer made over the weekend, the owners asked for the ability to eliminate hundreds of minor league playing jobs in its latest labor offer to the players association. The MLBPA will have no part of that request, dragging on the negotiations that have not shown any progress and assuring a late start of the season.

The number of minor league players a team can have at any time is 180. This is called the Domestic Reserve List. The owners have allowed that to remain at current levels, but Manfred’s office, under the latest request, will be able to lower that figure in future years to as little as 150 players in the future, adjusting it up and down at a whim. This is a request that the players will soundly reject, as reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

In recent years the owners have proposed controlling the size of the Domestic Reserve, which was rejected multiple times. The players have not specifically responded to the request, but sources report that the players intend to reject it and any future proposals that could cut minor league jobs.

Two new MLB rules will make a complex situation even more complicated in other recent developments. Those two rules are the Universal DH for the season 2022 and beyond. The other is the loss of removal of draft pick compensation. With many National League teams now looking for a DH to replace a pitcher that used to have to pitch, it will likely be a boon to free agents, with more teams interested in acquiring them.

Training camps will remain shuttered Wednesday when pitchers and catchers had been scheduled to start workouts for a 2022 season. Unless a miracle happens in the negotiations in the next few days, the start of the 2022 season will be delayed.

MLB News: With no agreement in sight, MLB asks for federal help

With MLB and the Players Union not substantially closer to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, MLB has asked the Feds to intervene to help iron out a new agreement, as the start of spring training is just two weeks away. Of course, even that move must be approved by the players union. When a new agreement could not be reached by the December 1 deadline, MLB instituted a shutdown until the sides had come together with a new agreement. Since then, the sides have had four meetings and have not been able to come together. Now MLB has asked for the assistance of a federal mediator to help resolve the labor issues between the league and the MLB Players Association, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

Should the two sides agree to this move, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service would assist with the proceedings between the two sides, with the help hoping to move the negotiations toward a new agreement. According to one MLB official, the league sees this as the most productive path going forward to move the negotiations ahead and avoid a loss of games at the beginning of the new season, which now appears to be in jeopardy.

On December 2nd, MLB instituted the lockout that forbids the New York Yankees or any of the other 29 major league teams from having any transactions to improve their teams. The sides can not even engage with each other with talks. Talks between the sides should have been productive as the main players in the talks are both experienced negotiators. The MLBPA leader and Executive Director is a very skilled negotiator. This time the players are tired of losing in negotiations and are not willing to concede on some of their wants. The other is Commissioner Rob Manfred, that has a degree in labor negotiations, but apparently, that hasn’t been helpful either.

This was particularly important for the New York Yankees as they remained out of the early moves that saw almost half of all available free agents going to other teams. Now with only days before catchers and pitchers report for spring training, the Yankees still have the holes to fill that were present after the conclusion of the World Series. They were able to upgrade their coaching staff but were not able to acquire any new players. With the lockout, the Yankee front office and general manager Brian Cashman have had plenty of time to figure out their moves once the lockout is over, but they will have to pounce and quickly, as other teams will be in the same situation.

In the past Federal mediators have helped resolve other professional sports negotiations, particularly assisting the National Football League, National Hockey League, and Major League Soccer, among others. They have not been as successful with MLB issues.

MLB and the MLBPA met on Tuesday to resolve some of the core economic issues. Past concessions bringing the sides closer seemed to be erased when those issues could not be resolved and tainting the progress already made. The MLBPA (players union) offered to reduce its bonus pool by $5 million. That pool was to increase the money available to the best minor league performers. But the talks on Tuesday did not result in any movement with that issue..

According to sources, the MLBPA remains stuck on a pair of key issues: They want a reduction in revenue sharing, and the union wants all players with two years of service time to be eligible for arbitration. The problem with these two MLBPA requests is that MLB has been steadfast, that those issues are non-starters for MLB team owners. Other issues include the leagues’ minimum salary and the competitive balance tax threshold. There have been over two dozen years of relative peace between the two sides, but this year the MLBPA has dug in its heels. The next step is for the players to agree to Federal negotiators. If they don’t do that, the start of spring training is surely in jeopardy.

If MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred can not find a way to start spring training on time, it will be just one more negative mark on the reputation of one of the most hated men in baseball. Zack  Britton is currently the Yankees’ representative to the players union.

New York Yankees: MLB/CBA negotiations to restart soon?

The New York Yankees and the other 29 MLB teams have been sitting idly by, unable to make any transactions to improve their teams as there is an MLB lockout in effect due to the sides not coming to a new agreement. Commissioner Rob Manfred immediately instituted a lockout when the Collective Bargaining Agreement expired on December 1, 2021. Since then, no substantial talks have taken place.

With just about six weeks left before pitchers and catchers report to spring training, The Athletic’s Evan Drellich reports that there are hopes that discussions will begin again to address the economic issues that caused the lack of an agreement. However, if they don’t start soon, it could affect the start of spring training. Drellich reports:

Major League Baseball is preparing new core economic proposals to deliver to the Players Association. When they’re presented, likely this month, core economic talks in the sport will have restarted for the first time since owners initiated a lockout on December 2, marking a positive development.

The two sides are so far apart that the money issues for both sides probably won’t be resolved quickly or easily. Because it is labor vs. owners, the primary issue is money, who gets it, and how much, and when. These problems will be contentious because the players feel the owners have had their way with them in the last several agreements, and they are not going to allow that this time.

The players want more of the revenue coming to them, as the last several seasons, their share and shrunk. In addition, they want to see an end to the occasional practice of service-time manipulation (i.e., when teams hold back a clearly ready prospect to delay his free agency and arbitration eligibility for an entire year) and the “tanking” problem, among other matters. This amounts to wanting more pay earlier in their careers. They will also be seeking incentives to make teams more competitive. They also want to see an end to the luxury tax ceiling to accomplish this.

Hal Steinbrenner and the other owners would like to keep everything just like it is, maintaining the status quo. They believe things as they are, have worked out for them just nicely. So for them, they don’t want to see a change in timelines for arbitration eligibility — currently three years of MLB service time in almost all instances — and free agency — now six years of MLB service time. Although those are the major issues, many other issues, including play rules, could cause the talks to come to another halt. 

None of these issues are new, being discussed several times before. That being the case, even those talks supposedly started again don’t look for early resolutions. Add to that the growing animosity between the two sides, and it is not looking good. Manfred, for his part, should be the man to get an agreement done. He is a lawyer and has a degree in labor relations. Unfortunately, he seems to be owned by the MLB owners. Regardless look for at least some action during January; time is running out on getting the 2022 baseball season.

MLB Lockout: Stalemate between owners, players continues into new year

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Optimistically, MLB fans had hoped negotiations between owners and players would pick up as the calendar turned to 2022. But, after a week, nothing has happened and no definitive end is in sight.

As no deal was completed before the Dec. 1, 2021 deadline, owners locked out the players over the collective bargaining agreement (CBA): the ultimate rulebook for the sport. The two sides couldn’t agree on a variety of issues, including a universal designated hitter, runners on second base to start extra innings and conditions for minor league players.

The last time a lockout neared, the sides agreed to a deal just a day before the CBA expired, which last happened in 2016. The former agreement was the first new CBA deal under current commissioner Rob Manfred, but at that point, Manfred hadn’t been as progressive on a rulebook overhaul.

However, as Manfred has often pushed new rules in hopes to speed up the game, the sport has entered its first lockout since 1995. The two sides have had minor discussions to end the current work stoppage, but nothing is encouraging enough to have much optimism. Players and owners last met before Christmas.

According to reports, no future discussions are scheduled — for now. Both sides are looking at the end of January as the key time to ramp up talks without affecting the season. At this point, pitchers and catcher are a little over a month away from reporting, and they cannot do so unless the CBA is agreed upon.

If the deal is completed by early February at the latest, the season should stay unaffected. But, once the lockout is ended, operations of a typical off-season must happen, including movement of the free agent market. Carlos Correa, Kris Bryant, Trevor Story and others are still unsigned and deals will likely happen quickly after the CBA agreement.

Owners and players remain at a standstill, but negotiations could ramp up in the coming weeks.

MLB News and Rumors: Why is Commissioner Rob Manfred so disliked?

Outside of some of the MLB umpires, Commissioner Rob Manfred is one of the most disliked people in baseball, and there is good reason for that. Fans believe he has mishandled his job and is terrible for baseball. Fans can’t point to anything he’s has done for the game since he took over for Alan “Bud” Selig, who manned the position for over seventeen years. Fans that don’t like him point out:

  • Since he took over MLB and the players union, they have more strained relations.
  • He once called the World Series trophy just a piece of metal.
  • His handling of the Astros cheating scandal was abysmal. There was no striping of the World Series title, and no players were held accountable or suspended.
  • He cost the city of Atlanta and its economy over $100 million dollars when he abruptly moved the All-Star game of out Atlanta based on political considerations.
  • His pettiness has caused the loss of one of the most respected journalists.
  • His handling of the present CBA has been hands-off except for mandating a lockdown that halted any transactions.

By their very nature of being a union against the employer, the owners and players association are going to be contentious. But you would think Rob Manfred would have worked toward better relations, something he has not done. Considering Manfred’s law degree and Bachelors in industrial and Labor Relations, received at Cornell University, you would assume that he would be the absolute best man for the job, but he has been the opposite.

He seems to have a disrespect for the game. Can you image a commissioner of a sport calling its highest reward just a piece of metal? Regarding not taking the championship away from the Astros, he spit in the face of all baseball fans by proclaiming that the World Series trophy is “just a piece of metal.” Fans on social media were fuming over that proclamation made on February 15, 2020.

Fans, particularly New York Yankee fans, were furious over his handling of the Astros cheating scandal that may have cost the Yankees a World Series appearance and slugger Aaron Judge, the Rookie of the Year Award. After a thorough investigation, MLB proclaimed that the Houston Astros did cheat during the 2017 season, including the postseason. Manfred’s answer to that was to suspend the manager and general manager for a season. However, he did not strip them of the title, ask for the trophy or rings back, and hold players accountable.

After the players and owners could not come to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement by the deadline of December 1, without missing a beat, he instituted a lockdown halting all major league transactions when talks could have continued. Since then, he has not shown any leadership in getting those talks started again. In fact, there presently aren’t even any talks scheduled when spring training is only weeks away.

To show his pettiness, he has probably gotten one of the most exemplary sports journalists kicked off of MLB.com. Ken Rosenthal is one of the most likable and most respected baseball reporters. He has worked for MLB.com for 12 years, gaining fans and peers alike. Back in 2020, Rosenthal mentioned some things he didn’t like about how Manfred handled the start of the short season. As a result, he was suspended for a short time. His contract with MLB.com was over upon the completion of the 2021 season. MLB.com would not renew his contract reportedly over Rosenthal’s comments. It’s hard to believe a lawyer has such thin skin.

“Can confirm MLB Network has decided not to bring me back. I’m grateful for the more than 12 years I spent there and my enduring friendships with on-air personalities, producers, and staff. I always strove to maintain my journalistic integrity, and my work reflects that.”

Luckily for fans, he will still broadcast for the FOX Sports Network and continue his excellent journalism at the Athletic. So what social media says about the two men is really all you need to know.

Retired Yankee Broadcaster and Baltimore Oriole great Ken Singleton has this to say about the situation:

Ken Rosenthal has been an excellent writer and reporter on all things baseball since covering the Orioles years years ago in Baltimore. For the MLB Network to let him go is terribly shortsighted and reduces the credibility of the whole product.

New York Yankees: Radical differences suggest a long lockout

The New York Yankees failed to improve the team before the lockout, and they can expect to wait a long time to make those improvements. Most analysts believe the lock will last until the start of spring training, assuming the players are not locked out of the training facilities, endangering the beginning of the 2022 season.

By now, most of you know that Major League Baseball is in its first work stoppage since the 1994-95, that’s 26 years since the players went on strike in the middle of the 94 season. Last Wednesday night at 11:59 p.m. ET, the 2017-21 collective bargaining agreement expired, meaning MLB and the MLB Players’ Association do not have a contract in place to conduct business. This time, it’s not a strike but an owner-imposed lockout instituted just minutes after the present expiration.

What all of this means to the 2022 season is unknown right now, but we do know, is that all MLB business came to an immediate halt. Players and owners can’t even talk to each other until a new deal is signed. But it goes beyond that; the no talk and no contact goes includes managers, coaches, and even rehab trainers. Here are a few other events that could be impacted.

Along with the transaction freeze, the MLB Winter Meetings scheduled for December 6-9, typically the busiest week of the offseason, have been canceled. The Rule 5 draft that is scheduled for December 10 is likely to happen still. There is precedent for this, as the draft went on during the last work stoppage. But the final decision is unclear. The draft is when teams can select unprotected minor leaguers from other teams. Those selected must be included on the procuring team’s 40 man rosters, automatically making them a member of the Players Union.

January 14, 2022, is the arbitration salary filing deadline. You can look for this to occur as arbitration is between the players and the arbitrator and the owners and the arbitrator. The players and owners don’t actually talk to each other. However, pushing the deadline back is not out of the question.

January 15, 2022, is the first day that teams can sign international free agents. It could go on as scheduled during the lockout as the owners are not dealing with major league players. However, that does not mean that date couldn’t be pushed back too. MLB has been wanting an International Draft for years, and the upcoming CBA could change those rules. If a CBA can not be accomplished before spring training, it could push back the signing date indefinitely. The Yankees were expected to sign number one international prospect Rodrick Arias.

On January 20, 2022, the Baseball Hall of Fame will announce their class of 2022 as voted upon by the Baseball Writer’s Association. This will go on as expected.
That brings us to the start of Spring training in February, when pitchers and catchers are to report. If this is no CBA in place, they won’t be allowed on the training facilities, and the start of spring training and the regular 2022 season could be impacted. As it looks right now, most baseball analysts do not expect an agreement until the heat really turns up at the beginning of February. Why? Because the two sides are far apart on the issues, and neither seems to be willing to negotiate in good faith.

Rather than get into all the issues causing the lockout, let’s just say it’s about money, the players want more, particularly at the beginning of their careers, and the owners want to keep that money. That’s not to say there aren’t other issues causing disagreement, but money is the big one. The players feel the owners have pretty much had their way in the last few agreements and are determined not to let that happen again. With heals dug in, there is no telling how long the stoppage will last, or even if there will be a 2022 season.

If these issues are to be resolved, Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred and Player’s Union leader Tony Clark and going to have to put their heads together and hammer out what is best for both sides. What the fans want will not be in the equation. For the Yankees, with much work yet to do, they would like to see an agreement made sooner than later.

New York Yankees: It’s 1994 all over again, what you need to know

The New York Yankees and all of major league baseball went into lockout when the owners and the players couldn’t come to an agreement on a new CBA (collective bargaining agreement). This is the first work stoppage in baseball in 27 years. Although there are some differences, it is like 1994 all over again. This is a lockout by the owners; in 1994, it was a walkout by the players; nevertheless, the result is the same, no baseball interactions by any of the parties involved until a new agreement can be reached.

For all practical purposes, it means the players and owners can’t talk to each other. That means no trades, no more insane contracts offered to players, coaches can’t even work with players. Pitchers and catchers are to report to spring training in February, but they won’t be getting any instruction from trainers, coaches, or manager Aaron Boone. It has yet to be seen if players are locked out of spring training sites. Depending on the lockout length (in 1994, it was seven and half months), the 2022 season may not start on time or may not be played at all.

For baseball fans everywhere, most find both sides responsible, the players who are crying after making millions a year to play a game they love and the owners for being just as greedy. Forgetting the issues for a moment and looking deep into the responsibility for the lockout, it gets quite confusing. Without the owners, the ballplayers have no job. The owners spend millions on new ballparks, refurbishing older ones, paying players, in some cases insane amounts to play, and all the other associated costs of putting on a ballgame. This is not to recognize that owners make revenues from ticket sales, merchandise, and TV revenues.

On the player’s part, yes, most struggle in the early years of their careers in the minors, with relatively low pay and, in some cases, substandard living conditions that have significantly improved in recent years. But the reality is, isn’t that true of most workers, no matter what career they choose, the more considerable earnings come with time and experience. An example across all careers is that in the early years, you may have to share an apartment with a friend to get by, but after, say, 10 years, you may be able to afford a home. The big difference between the average Joe and a baseball player is that Joe will likely never make millions a year.

This writer tends to side with the owners who have much more at stake than the players do. However, the ballplayers do have some issues that should be addressed in their favor. The owners have supported a salary cap forever, but the players will have no part of that. If you think about it, a player that is paid $43 million a year to start 25-30 games in the course of a season makes nearly a million and a half dollars to pitch five or six innings. That is insane when an average family of four can’t afford to attend a ballgame. Not to dwell on the subject, but think about it a second. That pitcher makes more money in between pitches in one game than the ticket buyer makes annually.

To understand the work stoppage, let’s take a look at other stoppages through the years:

  • 1972: Players struck over a pension dispute. It lasted about two weeks, disrupting the 1972 season.
  • 1973: The owners locked out the player over salary arbitration during spring training that year.
  • 1976: Owner lockout during spring training over the evolving issue of player-free agency.
  • 1980: In 1980, if issue of free agency again halted spring training.
  • 1981: Players strike over free-agent compensation. The 1981 season was nearly destroyed when two months of playing time was lost.
  • 1985: Players strike over pension fund and salary arbitration. This stoppage only lost two games of the season.
  • 1990: Owner lockout over salary arbitration and free agency. Began during spring training, causing a delay in the start of the 1990 season.
  • The 1995 season was significantly abbreviated. 1994: Players strike largely over owners’ desire to implement a salary cap. This happened in August and canceled the remainder of the season, including the postseason. At the time, the Yankees were 70-43. Play resumed only after a federal judge reinstated terms of the previous CBA.
  • 2021: Owners lockout players when agreement is not evident. Players want more money sooner in their careers and want owners to stop manipulating how long a player remains in the minors. The union also wants a luxury tax overhaul to lure teams to spend more on player salaries without fear of harsh tax penalties. The players also want a higher beginning salary that now stands at $570,000. These are just some of the issues that have not been resolved. It should be pointed out that if no progress is made, the sides could agree to keep the present agreement in force to prevent the loss of the 2022 season.

For fans, they see both sides of the issues, not being sincere and willing to work together to make the game better for the sake of the fan and the game itself. Every time there is a work stoppage, fans leave the sport.

The biggest target for disgruntled fans is Commissioner Rob Manfred that has a very low approval rating that is near the bottom of the trash can. For Yankee fans, they will never forgive him for not stripping the Houston Astros of their 2017 World Series win after it was proved that they cheated. That aside, he has not been seen as doing what if best for the game. One thing that should be known about Manfred is that he is a graduate of Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations and has a law degree from Harvard. He should be the perfect person to resolve these issues but has failed.

“Things like a shortened reserve period, $100 million reduction in revenue sharing, and salary arbitration for the whole two-year class are bad for the sport, bad for the fans, and bad for competitive balance,” Manfred recited on Thursday, while noting that the players have not budged on any of these issues. He also said the owners have already made concessions.”

“While we have heard repeatedly that free agency is ‘broken’ — in the month of November $1.7 billion was committed to free agents, smashing the prior record by nearly 4x,” Manfred penned, likely echoing what he’s heard from the crybaby billionaires whose collective interest he represents. “By the end of the offseason, Clubs will have committed more money to players than in any offseason in MLB history.”

In addition to the issues at hand, the players believe the owners have had their way in recent agreements and are not going to let that happen again. Tony Clark, leader of the players union, has been less verbal about the lack of an agreement, but he did say on Thursday:

“From the outset, it seems as if the league has been more interested in the appearance of bargaining than bargaining itself,” said Clark, who then stressed that M.L.B. wasn’t required to impose a lockout. He added, “And contrary to the statement that imposing a lockout would be helpful in bringing negotiations to a conclusion, players consider it unnecessary and provocative. This lockout won’t pressure or intimidate players into a deal that they don’t believe is fair.”

With the sides still very far apart, and neither side willing to work in good faith, it spells for a very long work stoppage, as seen by most industry insiders. Stay with EmpireSportsMedia.com for all the latest developments.

EmpireSportsMedia.com’s columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam.

New York Yankees: MLB owners impose lockout, everything comes to a halt

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Last night, New York Yankee owner Hal Steinbrenner and the other 29 club owners unanimously voted to impose a lockout. It was not a surprise as the two sides in the negotiations for a new five-year agreement were reportedly still far apart on pending issues. The lockout means an immediate stop to any trades or new free-agent contracts. The lockout will last until the two sides can come to an agreement.

The move last night signals the first time there has been an MLB work stoppage since August of 1994. That stoppage ended the season with no World Series and lasted into the 1995 season that was delayed. The stoppage lasted over seven and a half months. That stoppage likely cost the Yankees a championship, as the team was 70 and 43 before the stoppage. This present stoppage is due to a lockout by the owners, the 1994 halt was caused by a player walkout. It’s unclear if it will affect Opening Day for the start of the 2022 spring training.

Super agent Scott Boras had this to say about the lockout:

“We have something in our rules that creates non-competitiveness. It creates something that drives down fan interest. All those things need to be addressed and addressed immediately, because the whole integrity and wholesomeness of the game needs to be back to where it was, so there’s an incentive to get back to the ballpark and win every day,”

His client, Mets newly acquired pitcher Max Scherzer and player negotiator, had this to say:

“There are so many different ways as players as whole that we believe we can make the game better. We’re absolutely committed to doing that,” Sherzer told reporters. “I hear every other player, whether young or old, they’re all saying the same thing clubhouse to clubhouse. It’s not just me who thinks this, it’s everybody. It’s obvious to all the players.”

In the wee hours of Thursday, after the lockout was affirmed, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred explained why the lockout was necessary.

“This defensive lockout was necessary, because the players association’s vision for Major League Baseball would threaten the ability of most teams to be competitive… It’s simply not a viable option. From the beginning, the MLBPA has been unwilling to move from their starting position, compromise or collaborate on solutions.”

How long this lockout will last is anyone’s guess, but a short outcome does look like it is in the offing. At stake is money, the players want more earlier, and the owners want to keep that money. In the last several agreements, the owners have pretty much had their way. This time the players have made it clear that they are sick of it and are not going to take it anymore. They have their heels dug in, which does not spell for any early agreement.

As of this writing, baseball player’s union leader Tony Clark, who is an ex-Yankee first baseman, has not made a statement on the lockout.

At 12:03 am today Manfred issued this letter to baseball fans:

To our Fans:

I first want to thank you for your continued support of the great game of baseball. This past season, we were reminded of how the national pastime can bring us together and restore our hope despite the difficult challenges of a global pandemic. As we began to emerge from one of the darkest periods in our history, our ballparks were filled with fans; the games were filled with excitement; and millions of families felt the joy of watching baseball together.

That is why I am so disappointed about the situation in which our game finds itself today. Despite the league’s best efforts to make a deal with the Players Association, we were unable to extend our 26 year-long history of labor peace and come to an agreement with the MLBPA before the current CBA expired. Therefore, we have been forced to commence a lockout of Major League players, effective at 12:01am ET on December 2.

I want to explain to you how we got here and why we have to take this action today. Simply put, we believe that an offseason lockout is the best mechanism to protect the 2022 season. We hope that the lockout will jumpstart the negotiations and get us to an agreement that will allow the season to start on time. This defensive lockout was necessary because the Players Association’s vision for Major League Baseball would threaten the ability of most teams to be competitive. It’s simply not a viable option. From the beginning, the MLBPA has been unwilling to move from their starting position, compromise, or collaborate on solutions.

When we began negotiations over a new agreement, the Players Association already had a contract that they wouldn’t trade for any other in sports. Baseball’s players have no salary cap and are not subjected to a maximum length or dollar amount on contracts. In fact, only MLB has guaranteed contracts that run 10 or more years, and in excess of $300 million. We have not proposed anything that would change these fundamentals. While we have heard repeatedly that free agency is “broken” – in the month of November $1.7 billion was committed to free agents, smashing the prior record by nearly 4x. By the end of the offseason, Clubs will have committed more money to players than in any offseason in MLB history.

We worked hard to find compromise while making the system even better for players, by addressing concerns raised by the Players Association. We offered to establish a minimum payroll for all clubs to meet for the first time in baseball history; to allow the majority of players to reach free agency earlier through an age-based system that would eliminate any claims of service time manipulation; and to increase compensation for all young players, including increases in the minimum salary. When negotiations lacked momentum, we tried to create some by offering to accept the universal Designated Hitter, to create a new draft system using a lottery similar to other leagues, and to increase the Competitive Balance Tax threshold that affects only a small number of teams.

We have had challenges before with respect to making labor agreements and have overcome those challenges every single time during my tenure. Regrettably, it appears the Players Association came to the bargaining table with a strategy of confrontation over compromise. They never wavered from collectively the most extreme set of proposals in their history, including significant cuts to the revenue-sharing system, a weakening of the competitive balance tax, and shortening the period of time that players play for their teams. All of these changes would make our game less competitive, not more.

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.

Today is a difficult day for baseball, but as I have said all year, there is a path to a fair agreement, and we will find it. I do not doubt the League and the Players share a fundamental appreciation for this game and a commitment to its fans. I remain optimistic that both sides will seize the opportunity to work together to grow, protect, and strengthen the game we love. MLB is ready to work around the clock to meet that goal. I urge the Players Association to join us at the table.