89 days ago Major League Baseball locked its players out. The league said it was a "defensive" measure and employed the tactic to try and jump-start negotiations with the MLB Players Association.
Then they didn't hold a meeting for six weeks.
On February 20, after pitchers and catchers were supposed to have reported for Spring Training, the two sides finally started consistently talking. MLB set a deadline of Monday, February 28 to have a deal in place or they'd have to miss regular-season games.
Sure enough, multiple reports started trickling out of Jupiter, FL, (where the talks are taking place) on Monday morning that the league has its mind set on just that.
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It's not hard to see the context of that kind of statement, and pretty much everyone who heard it took it the exact same way.
In a surprising development, early Monday Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter left the team, citing a difference in philosophy with others in the organization. Reading between the lines it's easy to believe the former Yankees captain sees how the franchise is going about these negotiations and doesn't want to be party to it anymore.
The major sticking points continue to be about money. In extremely simplistic terms, the league doesn't want to increase its luxury tax threshold (despite nearly record revenues and players' salaries dropping for four straight seasons), aren't keen on increasing minimum salaries, and don't want to let players who out-perform their first couple of contracts reach salary arbitration earlier or get paid out of a bonus pool.
Talks have not been completely fruitless. The sides have agreed in some way on anti-tanking rules like a draft lottery and adopting the universal designated hitter. Those were pretty easy to work through.
The bottom line is the Players Association has made efforts to find a middle ground on these issues while the owners have stayed put. For example: right now on 22% of players are eligible for salary arbitration after two years. The MLBPA asked that to be increased to 75%, then dropped that ask to 35% ... but the league won't budge off their 22%.
One side's willingness to move 40% while the other's refusal to go another 13% is quite telling.
Now, all is not lost. While commissioner Rob Manfred said the league implemented Monday's deadline because they want at least four weeks of Spring Training to prepare for a season, they gave teams just 23 days to get ready in 2020 and everything turned out fine.
Plus, the mystifying thing about this is the owners can end the lockout at any time. They can decide to let the season start on time while continuing to work out the details of a new deal. They're simply refusing to do such and unless they have a sudden change of heart it's looking like MLB will miss games that count because of a labor dispute for the first time since 1995.
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