At the time of writing on Monday night, there still isn’t an agreement between the MLB owners and the MLBPA. When I finally gave up waiting, things were moving toward beating the arbitrary deadline the owners had set up to start the regular season on time (extended to 5 p.m. EST today). Not that they could enforce that without the players’ say-so, but that’s another problem for another day. Anyway, the movement was a first, and things are finally trending in the right direction.
Based on what we could synthesize from various tweets from various baseball scribes, it seems that neither the players or owners are agreeing to anything that will actually fix the game and its main problems.
There is a token raise of the minimum salary. Except MLB’s minimum salary will still be miles behind the other three major sports, even with the league awash in cash and the sport’s teams relying on players making that minimum far more than anyone else. There’s no scrapping of the luxury tax altogether, or the penalties for going over it that teams have used as a de facto salary cap. There’s nothing to spur teams that don’t come anywhere near to the luxury tax to spend more. What you’ve seen with the Pirates is what you’re going to get from the Pirates.
Maybe not worst of all, but will contribute to the drivel that the MLB regular season will become, is that playoff expansion is coming. The players might have kept the owners to only 12 teams getting in, though that was reported by Bob Nightengale so I expect to wake up to an announcement that the MLB playoffs will be 24 teams.
But playoff expansion will only lessen any front office’s desire to field a team that can run with the few that are trying to be all they can be. Outside of the AL East, who really has to try all that hard? Sure, you can try and chase down the Dodgers and try to construct a consistent 105-win team. Or you can aim for an 89-win one and make the playoffs every year, and hey, maybe one year everything will just bounce your way and you can call your mission accomplished. After all, the Dodgers mostly do everything right and everything has only bounced their way once in their decade of dominance, and even that was in the season-in-a-can of 2020. Maybe it’s not worth trying that hard? That’s what most teams will say.
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But now you’ll get 162 games of basically nothing, a training video for the games that count in October that the owners only care about. They don’t really care about getting their team into them, so much as the TV money for them gets spread to all their accounts. How can there be an important series in August when both teams are comfortably going to the playoffs? The beauty of baseball used to be that its everyday nature built to a conclusion. Now it’ll just be a slog full of meaningless processions that you’ll forget as soon as they’re over.
Even if there’s some chase for the top spot in each league, it’s unbalanced. The White Sox will get to harvest on the decomposing organs of their division all season while the Blue Jays, Rays, Yankees, and Red Sox have to maul each other 18 times a season apiece. It’s not so much that the White Sox will be better than all of them so much as benefit by geography.
The players could have changed the game for the better. They had to hold strong to eventually threaten the owners’ playoff money. Yeah, it was a huge risk. But one they didn’t take. So they’ll get some changes around the edges. What we’ll get is slightly warmed over crap. The only people who win are the ones who always win: The 30 owners. And when they lose, when they leave the game in ruins, they’ll leave us to pick up the pieces. If there are any left.