Before we focus on the 2022 Orioles, let’s look at the lockout and determine the winners and losers. Even though the owners unanimously approved the collective bargaining agreement, and the players did by just over a 2-1 margin (26-12), the thought here is that the players were the winners.
The owners controlled the timetable and were able to lock out the players for an unnecessary 99 days. But the move didn’t cost the players any money.
Players get paid for the 162 games they’ll play. Owners lost the ability to use players to promote the game, hurting ticket sales. That might hurt the players, but not as directly.
The players also were able to stay on the high road because it was the owners who locked them out. Had the players struck during the season, it would have been a different story.
Players made important gains. Their minimum salary rose from $570,500 last season to $700,000 this season. If your salary rose from $57,500 to $70,000, I think you’d be happy with it.
For the first time, players not eligible for arbitration can earn bonuses. And the issue of tanking — not fully investing in the major league team and benefiting from higher draft choices — has begun to be addressed with a six-team draft lottery.
Players who complained about being optioned often to the minor leagues in a single season have those complaints addressed. After five options, a player can be put on waivers.
Although the owners can claim a win with a 12-team postseason and more TV revenue, I think that’s an antidote to tanking. I’ve always liked fewer teams in the postseason but having two additional teams could convince more clubs to be aggressive during July when deals can be made. The owners wanted 14 teams, nearly half of the 30 teams, in the postseason, but 12 is a good compromise.
Perhaps in a few years there will be expansion, and then maybe a move to 14 teams would be appropriate. The major leagues haven’t expanded since 1998, and once the Oakland and Tampa Bay stadium situations are resolved, expansion can be addressed.
It would be a boon for owners because they could get $2 billion in franchise fees, and good for players because 52 major league jobs will be created. It would be good for baseball because it would add eight minor league affiliates and begin to repopulate the minors, which lost 40 teams in their restructuring last year.
The international draft, which owners wanted, must be agreed upon by the players and Major League Baseball by July 25th. If not, draft compensation for free agents who received qualifying offers remains.
Latin American players, who make up about a quarter of major leaguers, are against an international draft. Their voices are important, and they’ve long been taken for granted.
However, an international draft could help clean up that important market. Dealing with agents for young teenagers isn’t positive for baseball, and teams could focus on scouting instead of recruiting players, a process that can begin at age 13.
Fans should be happy that the designated hitter is universal. Few pitchers are skilled hitters, and seeing a pitcher injured while batting isn’t worth the risk.
A new competition committee, which will include players, will debate rules. Owners will have a majority on the committee, which also will include an umpire, but players will have a voice. The pitch clock, banning of shifts and larger bases could make the game more entertaining.
Beginning next season, teams will play fewer games against divisional opponents and at least one series against every other team— including both leagues. Fewer games for the Orioles against the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Blue Jays, and maybe a Buck Showalter reunion with the Mets.
As disappointing as the timing of these negotiations were to fans, the parties seemed to tackle a number of important issues that have been ignored.
After the 1994-1995 debacle, fans believed that labor strife was a given. Many feel that way today. The climate surrounding these negotiations was rancorous, but not as angry as it was then.
No one could have predicted a quarter-century without a work stoppage, and at least this one cost only exhibition games in terms of the sport itself.
Five years from now, there will be another negotiation. The players will change. Some of the owners might, and there may be a new union head or even a new commissioner.
Maybe next time, there will be MLB leadership that doesn’t try to provoke players. This complex agreement could have been worked out by early December had there been a will. Perhaps next time there will be.