This didn’t need to happen.
MLB wasn’t forced to implement a lockout immediately after the Collective Bargaining Agreement expired.
They weren’t forced to scrub MLB.com of player images and stories almost immediately. There’s some debate about making money off the likeness of the players. MLB’s argument is that this is just procedure to stay within the law and avoid making money from the likeness of the players.
Several former Pirates took to Twitter to change their avatars to the blank players that have replaced every 40-man roster player across MLB.com.
Some A+ trolling here from @itsFatherJoe44, @JTaillon50 and @MeLlamoTrevor changing their profile pictures to the blank avatars https://t.co/cML1faFwBH is using in lieu of player images, which it has scrubbed from its website in the wake of the lockout. pic.twitter.com/sp59sRacce
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 2, 2021
The plan here is simple. MLB is using every tool and technique at their disposal to turn public opinion against the players.
By issuing an immediate lockout and a strong statement from Rob Manfred that blames the players for everything, MLB removed the players from their news site only to make you forget who exactly makes the game of baseball.
We’re in times right now where there’s a larger debate about fair wages for people making much less than MLB players. We’re also in times where the top players in the league keep getting record deals. Inevitably, the players will draw some heat from the public for being greedy. Their easily available salary figures will be used as an example of how they don’t actually need more. In a time when there’s a surge to tax billionaires, the billionaire owners of MLB can easily turn that sentiment toward its millionaire players.
MLB’s focus is to get as much of the public on their side, and to put pressure on the players. The league has the advantage in that they are assembling the needs to 30 owners versus 1200 players. It’s going to be much more difficult for the players to stand as a united front with so many to consider.
The battle on each side is the same.
On the owners side, there are a few large market teams who can outspend the rest of the league, and buy near-guaranteed playoff appearances. Then, there are teams in small markets who routinely have tanking seasons to rebuild, ultimately only ever seeing 3-5 years of continuous success, with a much lower chance of a World Series than the big markets.
The hope, for the sake of competitiveness, would be MLB implementing a system to share revenue equally and put every team on the same spending level, which would eliminate market size from the competitive factor.
On the players side, there are those at the top signing nine-figure contracts, and making over $43 million per year. Then, there are those at the bottom who have their wages suppressed during their best seasons. The system that MLB has now pays the players nothing during their best years, and leaves them unwanted as veteran free agents when they finally hit the open market north of 40-years-old.
If Max Scherzer made $33 million per year instead of $43 million, the Mets could use the difference to pay every minor leaguer in their system a living wage. Or, they could double the minimum wage for 20 players on the roster. Like the teams, the players experience a massive difference in pay between the top and bottom.
If the league were to ever implement a salary cap/floor/total revenue sharing, it would result in a shift for both sides. You’d see fewer top deals, with the salary of those at the bottom rising. You wouldn’t see a $200 million gap between the highest and lowest spending team.
To get to this point, you’d not only need teams like the Yankees/Red Sox/Dodgers to give up their power and revenue for the greater good. You would also need players like Scherzer, Gerrit Cole, and others to give up money and power for the greater good on their side. And then, you’d need both sides to agree on a revenue split that would be fair for the haves and have-nots on either side.
There are a lot of moving parts here, and MLB has done a great job for years of sweeping their problems under the rug to deal with down the line. They haven’t wanted to turn off their money making machine in the past. Now, the machine is locked out. You wonder if this is finally the time the league will make drastic changes that should have been implemented way back in 1994. If not now, then I don’t know if it will ever happen where MLB will see a fair league structure that bridges the gap between the top and bottom.
**For a great rundown of where each side stood on the discussions before the lockout, check out Ronald Blum’s article in the AP.
**The MLB portion of the Rule 5 draft is postponed indefinitely, according to Baseball America, though the minor league portion is still scheduled for next Thursday.
CORRECTION: The MLB portion of the Rule 5 draft has been postponed indefinitely, not necessarily canceled.
We apologize for the error. https://t.co/sRX8LwUaVT
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) December 2, 2021
Check back to First Pitch each night for the latest updates on the MLB lockout.