Despite the antagonistic tone of the negotiations that spilled so frequently into the public square last winter, the MLBPA is hopeful that the sequel this winter will strike a more amicable (and private) tone, per The Athletic’s Evan Drellich.
At the same time, Drellich provides interesting comments from executive director of the MLBPA Tony Clark, who spoke harshly of last winter’s mediation:
“In essence, going back to March, what manifested itself thereafter, we view largely as a lockout. There are lines that can be drawn between what happened this year and what may have happened historically. But I continue to remain optimistic that as a result of that experience, we have an opportunity and take advantage of the opportunity, to work through our respective disagreements to the benefit of the game moving forward.”
It’s unclear what to glean from Clark’s retroactively labeling the coronavirus shutdown as a work stoppage, but if nothing else, his point highlights the severity of those negotiations. It also puts in no uncertain terms the length the players are willing to go in order to have their needs met.
Clark spoke about being open to any conversation this winter, broadly speaking, but he also made a point to note the MLBPA’s general skepticism about the financial numbers being put forth by MLB in regard to their operating losses from 2020. The owners’ use of the word "debt," for example, Clark explains as an evocation that misconstrues the true function of debt for businesses the size of MLB.
Issues like the universal designated hitter and extra-innings rules appear on the back-burner priority-wise for the MLBPA. One might expect a less steadfast approach from players in those areas. The MLBPA won’t be as flexible on issues of player pay. Players expect a battle in securing a full 162-game season in 2021, especially if fan attendance remains a non-guarantee. The owners will want the players to take some part in the financial risk of putting on a season when fans might not be allowed to attend, but the players don’t appear willing to bear that burden unless provided with more substantive proof of the operating losses suffered by MLB and the owners.
Until some of the numbers being put forth by MLB can be verified in some form or fashion, the owners’ financial concerns are likely to fall on deaf ears. MLB has been hesitant to provide more detailed financials to the players, however. This saga is likely to continue well into the winter, much as it did prior to the truncated 2020 season.