Suggestions To Break the MLB Lockout Impasse

The MLB lockout continues and there are not active negotiations ongoing between the two sides.  I will go out on a limb here and suggest that absent any negotiating sessions, there will not be a resolution to this labor/management impasse.  So, when I ran across this column in the NY Post  by Ken Davidoff it caught my attention.  In the column, he tries to suggest compromises that the two sides might make in order to get to a new CBA even though neither side would get everything it wants to get.  Here is a link to his column; it is worth reading in full.

Let me be clear from the start; I do not agree with all of his proposals – – but that is exactly the point to be made now.  The time for rhetoric and posturing is in the past; the issue now is not if a suggested path forward is “perfect” or even “desirable”; the issue now is if a suggested path forward is “acceptable in exchange for some other modification of position by the other guys.”

Davidoff suggests payroll floors for all MLB teams.  I think this is a great idea but surprisingly it is as unappealing to the union as it is to the owners.  You would think that if teams like the Orioles, Marlins and Rays had to bump up their payrolls by as much as 100-150% over a 5-year period, the union would like that.  Rather, it seems that the union reflexively dismisses the concept of a salary cap and sees a salary floor as an opening to also have a salary cap.

That is a point where I part company with the union position.  Salary caps along with salary floors work in other professional sports; the players in the NFL and the NBA and the NHL are not being exploited and used up as chattel property without fair and reasonable compensation.  Obviously, there would need to be a lot of haggling over what the numbers might be for cap and floor; and just as importantly, there would have to be some grace-period exemptions for teams to come into compliance should it come to be.  But this is something that both sides should want to achieve somewhere down the road – – so get started now because it might take 10 years of negotiating to get it done.

Davidoff suggests increasing the threshold for baseball’s “luxury tax” as a balancing act for the salary floor that he proposes.  Absent getting to a “Cap-and-Floor” structure, the increase he proposes in the luxury tax target point makes sense.

Davidoff suggests increasing the minimum salary for MLB players by more than 100% in 2022 and by about 300% by 2026.  I cannot imagine how the union would oppose such a position; the question is what might the union be willing to give to the owners in exchange.  I think the increases proposed would be helpful to young players who are a long way from getting to free agency; that would be a lot of votes in the union to ratify whatever else might be in the new CBA.  This change would also make it easier to assure that low-payroll teams start to approach a reasonable salary floor – – but then again, the union hates the idea of a salary floor.

Davidoff has a suggestion in his column regarding a change in the arbitration system.  I confess that I do not understand baseball arbitration rules anywhere near well enough to understand what he is proposing here and why it might or might not be a resolution that either side might like or dislike.  He says that his suggestion would diminish the relevance of agents; if that were to be the case, I could get behind it.

Davidoff wants to modify the MLB Draft so that teams are not rewarded for long-term tanking and perennial losing.  Maybe his suggestion is the best way to accomplish this end via the Draft and maybe there is a better idea out there; I don’t know.  However, I do think that his final conclusion here is definitely something that would be beneficial to MLB:

“Massive losing must be disincentivized.”

Davidoff favors a 14-team playoff and universal DH.  I disagree on both points.  I have never liked the DH rule and I still do not like it.  The only way I would even begin to consider expanded playoffs with 14 teams would be to cut back the regular season from 162 games so that the regular season can begin after April1, and the World Series can end before Halloween.  I really do like the idea of an orderly reduction of regular season games from the current 162 games to 144 games over a 5-7 year period.

Davidoff wants to eliminate the draft-pick penalties for teams signing top-shelf free agents.  I like that idea; the team losing the free agent can have a supplemental pick in the Draft but the team signing that free agent need not lose a pick.

Davidoff favors 7-inning doubleheaders so long as COVID is a problem.  He addresses the issue of “the fan who pays a 9-inning price for a ticket only to get a 7-inning game” with a creative suggestion.  Each fan gets a $15 coupon to be used for food in the stadium as compensation for the shorter game.   That is the kind of creative thinking that seems absent from the two sides who have to reach an agreement here.

Davidoff also suggests putting in pitch clocks and I think that is a great idea.  He cites data from pitch clock experiments in  Low-A minor leagues that showed more than 20 minutes being cut from average game time.  I attend AA games in Altoona every summer where there is a 20-second pitch clock and has been for several years.  The games move along much more quickly than MLB games do AND no pitcher has had to be helped off the field with his arm hanging by a thread.

Thanks to Ken Davidoff for this essay; I can only hope that the combatants read it and open their minds to the points he makes because without open minds, this contretemps will not resolve itself.

Finally, the two sides in this “battle” are still focused on ideal outcomes for their sides and that leads me to close today with a view of idealism from William F. Buckley, Jr.:

“Idealism is fine, but as it approaches reality the cost becomes prohibitive.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



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