It flew under the radar, which should be something the owners should notice, but MLB actually did make a proposal to the MLBPA yesterday, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan and Jesse Rogers. It was their first negotiation about the core issues of this lockout now six weeks in, which shows you just how much urgency the owners have had to end it. Anyway, the proposal was just above a joke, and there are many reasons why.
First off, the proposal didn’t address the luxury tax or raising minimum salaries and such, which of course there won’t be an agreement without major changes to either. And what they did include were pretty shoddy efforts at appeasing the players.
There was some kind of sham about teams getting a bonus draft pick if they start the season with a prospect on the top 150 prospects list and that player finishes in the top five of a major award like MVP or ROY. That depends on the opinions of other people who make the top 150 prospects list, and then the opinions of others to decide who finishes in the top five of those awards. Players having their fortunes, i.e. money, decided by the whims of however writers are feeling on that day is not exactly a well-grounded system.
There was more noise about a draft lottery, which doesn’t (or shouldn’t) matter to players nearly as much as the owners are making it. The MLB draft is rarely transformational like the NBA or NFL draft. Even the top pick isn’t seen for two, three, or four years, and is hardly a guarantee of anything. Drafting first or fifth hardly makes a difference. This is a red herring the players would do well to ignore. What they really need is to get more teams, or all teams in a dream world, to not focus on draft position at all. The idea is 30 teams trying to win. Teams tank to get prospects from other teams and more international signing money. They don’t really care about whether putting their fans through six months of ennui lands them the first or third pick.
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There was also more bullshit about formulas for arbitration players instead of just paying guys what they can negotiate or getting someone to award them in the case of an arbitrator.
What will probably matter most to fans is the proposal of 14 playoff teams. The players are very hesitant, but mostly because they know it’s the biggest matzo ball they have to lob to the owners in order to get what they want in another area. The players know that the more playoff teams there are, the more teams will be aiming for the middle and the bottom seeds rather than going all out to win divisions and top seeds which deflates salaries. But the players might want whatever they can get in return for expanded playoffs.
Make no mistake, expanding the playoffs will turn the regular season into an even more meaningless slog than it already is. MLB will be surprised how many fans are turned off by a sport that is on every day, and every day it doesn’t really mean anything. It’ll drive home every day just how nothing is really happening. Football can get away with it because it’s once a week. Home ice matters in the NHL, but home field in baseball? Not really. Top seeds in the NBA are far more likely to dance on through the bracket. Baseball has none of these stakes. It’ll be an empty parade.
As for the lockout, it sure feels like the owners believe the players will crack before they have to miss any regular-season games, and that somehow they’ll still win the PR war. Both of these things are not true. The owners made this farce of a proposal probably hoping the players would publicly lampoon it and then they could pin the whole thing on them. It won’t work. The players aren’t going to miss any checks until April, and they seem pretty hard-lined about clawing back at least some of the things they’ve lost in previous CBAs. But when TV deals and ticket sales start getting threatened, it’ll be the owners who start sweating.
This is the issue when you have 30 vampire squids who have been chasing absolutely every dollar they can hoover up to maintain their fix. They’ll miss every dollar they don’t get.
That doesn’t mean the players will “win” this lockout. That’s not the point of a lockout. But they very well might not lose it that badly, and maybe even get a draw.