CHICAGO – While insisting that Major League Baseball focus on getting a working deal, Commissioner Rob Manfred signaled on Thursday that the owners would likely block players if the current contract expires on December 1 without a new deal. .
Baseball went through eight work stoppages from 1972 to 1995, but social peace has reigned since a 7.5-month strike began in August 1994 and forced the World Series to be canceled for the first time in 90 years.
“We took this route. We got stuck in 89-90, ”said Manfred. “I don’t think 94 worked too well for anyone. I think when you watch other sports the tendency has become to control the timing of the labor dispute and try to minimize the possibility of actual disruption of the season. That’s what it’s about. It is to avoid harming the season.
Talks have been underway since the spring but lacked the momentum towards an agreement that characterized the negotiations that led to agreements in 2006, ’11 and ’16.
Baseball had a 32-day spring training lockout in 1990 and although opening day was delayed by a week, each team was scheduled to play 162 full games.
“Honestly, I can’t believe there is a single fan in the world who doesn’t understand that an offseason lockout that moves the process forward is any different from a labor dispute that costs games,” said Manfred.
While the luxury tax threshold was $ 210 million this year with a rate of 20 percent for first-time offenders, management proposed to have a threshold of $ 180 million with a rate of 25 percent. .
The teams have also proposed a minimum payroll of $ 100 million, which the union opposes because it is linked to tax penalties at the highest level.
The owners have also proposed replacing salary arbitration – for players with three years but less than six years of major league service plus the highest 17 percent by service time between two years and three – with a salary determined by FanGraphs WAR The union considers the type of salary scale it has rejected since 1989.
Players currently eligible for arbitration would be able to benefit from vested rights under the existing arbitration system.
The players, concerned about the manipulation of service time, proposed to increase free agency eligibility from six service seasons to five and referee eligibility to two seasons, which was the case before settlement. of the 1985 strike.
Instead, the owners proposed that the eligibility of free agents be changed at the age of 29.5.
Teams rejected the union’s proposal for revenue sharing changes, designed to benefit small markets and spur positive performance. The clubs have proposed a restriction that a team could not choose from the top five in the amateur draft for three consecutive years.
“We remain committed, priority # 1, to getting a deal done before December 1,” said Manfred, who was the league’s chief negotiator before becoming commissioner in 2015. “We understand, I understand that the time is getting “It’s a problem. It’s a challenge. We have had difficulties in reaching collective agreements in the past and we have a fairly good track record in overcoming those challenges.”
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Manfred was not surprised that several free agents have made deals since the World Series, although the ABC’s rules for next season are uncertain.
“We are good enough at obeying the law,” he said. “The law is that you have to continue to function normally even during the free agency trading period. And that means clubs make individual decisions about what’s best for them. So that’s what they do.
On other subjects:
The MLB authorized athletics in May to explore relocation options if they are unable to secure a new waterside baseball stadium in Oakland.
“They kept trying to find a solution in Oakland. At the same time, they are exploring Los Vegas as an alternative, ”said Manfred. “They worked very hard on both paths.”
Seattle President John Stanton, consultant Theo Epstein and MLB executive vice president Morgan Sword reported on the experiences of the competition committee.
“The Cal League pitch timer experience was one that owners continue to be very interested in because of the success,” said Manfred. “And frankly, we’ve seen some of the same results in the Arizona Fall League.”
MLB is moving towards a new chafing for baseballs that will lead to more sticky surfaces, which many pitchers have sought out, especially the crackdown on unauthorized substances began on June 21.
“We actually have a few options in terms of more sticky balls,” Manfred said. “There are going to be tests done over the winter. I think there will be – we’ll be far enough along that there’s actually some sort of live game, hopefully, testing in spring training and we could just use a new ball in the year. next. Maybe it will be 2023 instead, but we are continuing to work on this project and have made real progress. The trick is stickier, but not so sticky that it’s Spider Tack, right? “
Diamond Sports Group, a subsidiary of Sinclair Broadcast Group that acquired Fox’s regional sports network, is hoping to launch an RSN streaming service and has sought permission from MLB.
“We see what is happening with regard to RSNs as an issue that must be resolved, but an opportunity that must also be seized,” Manfred said. “The clubs really support aggressive action to make sure that we are reaching our fans in the most effective way possible.”
By JAY COHEN AP Baseball Writer
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