CHICAGO – Major League Baseball owners have yet to decide whether to lock down players if there is no new labor agreement after the current Dec. 1 expires, Commissioner Rob said on Thursday. Manfred, but he pointed out the folly of not doing so in 1994 which led to a crippling strike and added that “an offseason lockout that moves the process forward is different from a labor dispute that costs matches “.
“I don’t think 1994 went too well for anyone,” Manfred told reporters at the end of the quarterly owners’ meetings. “I think we have to watch other sports. The model has become to control the timing of the labor dispute and try to minimize the prospect of an actual disruption to the season. That’s what it’s about. This is to avoid damaging the season. “
Labor disputes were the main focus of owners, team presidents and league officials who met less than two weeks before the deal expired – and with little progress towards a new one. While the league and the MLB Players Association have met regularly – they had a bargaining session on Wednesday, Manfred said, and are scheduled for another Friday – they remain far from a deal, having made limited progress on fundamental economic issues.
“We understand, I understand, that time is becoming an issue,” Manfred said. ” It’s a challenge. We have already had challenges in reaching labor agreements, and we have a fairly good track record in overcoming those challenges. I can tell you from the point of view of the clubs, we are committed to continuing to make proposals and suggestions with the aim of reaching an agreement before December 1st. “
MLB’s 26-year labor peace streak – which follows the strike in 1994 that resulted in the World Series being called off – is at risk after a difficult five-year period in which players grew angry with the average salary in sport. fall as pre-COVID-19 revenues have skyrocketed.
The union has pursued a wide range of changes, from lifting the competitive balance tax threshold, to increased compensation for young players, to defeat deterrence by penalizing teams that currently benefit from it with picks. high draft. The league, which pursues extended playoffs and other changes on the pitch, came up with a basic economic proposal in August that was flatly rejected by the union as unsatisfactory.
The chasm between the parties played out in public during negotiations over how to shape the 2020 season, which was delayed by several months at the start of the pandemic. After multiple offers back and forth and late attempts to strike a deal, Manfred, as was his right from the March deal between the parties, imposed a 60-game season.
“The focus on 2020, I think, has been excessive,” Manfred said. “I’ve been responsible for the workforce in this industry since 1998. Each time I’ve found a way, we’ve found a way, to make a deal and keep the game on the ground. You know, kind of a mid-term negotiation in the midst of a pandemic crisis – I don’t give that much importance. Like I said, we’ve had very, very difficult situations in the past. We found our way through them We have great people I think we’ll find our way through this too.
“We never let personalities or what has happened in the past affect our pursuit of the most fundamental goal,” he added. “It’s to make a deal. I see this as an essential aspect of professionalism when it comes to being a labor negotiator. I really think so. And I know this applies at all levels when it comes to who is involved in the process – unless on our side. “
Manfred declined to speak specifically about the negotiations, saying it would not be “helpful to the process at this time”. He said: “I think the best thing for clubs and fans is to do whatever humanly possible to make a deal,” adding: “I left a pretty good job with a pretty good future to try. to bring this industry to the point where we can make deals without labor disputes. I don’t think there is anyone who understands better than me that from the fans’ point of view they don’t want a labor dispute, and that’s why our # 1 priority is to make a deal. . “
Among the other topics discussed during owners meetings:
• The adoption of a pitch clock in major league games seems increasingly inevitable after a presentation from the league’s competition committee highlighted how it reduced games by more than 20 minutes while coaching an increase in the offensive.
“The pitch-timer experience in the Cal League is one that owners are always very interested in because of the success,” said Manfred, “and frankly we’ve seen some of the same results in the Arizona Fall League. . “
• Fear of financial issues with regional sports networks spilling over to teams that rely heavily on local TV money has grown significantly in sports and was a topic of discussion among owners at meetings.
“We see what is happening with regard to NSRs as an issue that needs to be resolved but an opportunity that also needs to be seized,” said Manfred. “And the clubs [are] really supportive of aggressive action to make sure we’re reaching our fans in the most effective way possible. “
• The Tampa Bay Rays have made a proposal to the league’s powerful executive committee about their plan to divide the city that would see them spend half the season at Tampa-St. Petersburg area and the other half in Montreal. The board, Manfred said, has not made a decision on its viability “because of the press of other affairs. It’s a complicated subject ”.
• Oakland Athletics continues to review Las Vegas for possible relocation while pursuing a concurrent path to stay in Oakland with a new stadium.
“If the industry could speak,” Manfred said, “I think the industry is happy with the efforts in both places. “
• Manfred was open to the possibility of using a pre-glued baseball starting in the coming season after the league began enforcing the foreign substance rules in the middle of the 2021 season.
“I think we’ll be far enough along that there is actually, hopefully, live testing in spring training,” he said. “We might be able to use a new ball next year. Maybe it will be 23 instead, but we continue to work on this project and we have made real progress. The stuff is stickier but not that sticky. Spider Tack. “
• After the meeting on diversity, equity and inclusion, Manfred said he plans to give Michael Hill and Tony Reagins – two former general managers now working for the league who are black – to promote initiatives in a league whose ownership and executive ranks are almost exclusively made up of white men. Not having led a team himself, Manfred said: “There is sometimes a little credibility gap, and I have two great guys who I think can be very helpful on this subject. ”