The clock ticked on Wednesday toward Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement expiring at 11:59 p.m. EDT and the administration’s potential shutdown of ending labor peace in the sport at 9,740 days over 26-and-a-half years.
After successfully reaching four agreements in a row non-stop, the players and owners appeared headed to the confrontation for more than two years.
“A shutdown looks like a very likely scenario,” bowler Max Scherzer, a member of the union’s executive committee, said on Wednesday after the termination of his contract with the New York Mets.
The union has demanded the change after outraging the average salary drop, forcing middle-class teams out of their paychecks from the wealthy and war veterans in favor of low-paid youngsters, especially among clubs that tore up their rosters to rebuild.
“As players we see big problems with that,” Scherzer said of the 2016 agreement. “First of all, we see an issue with the competition and how teams are behaving because of certain rules within that, and adjustments have to be made because of that in order to take the competition out.”
The administration, bent on maintaining salary constraints gained in recent decades, rejected the federation’s requests for what the teams saw as important changes to the sport’s economic structure, including reducing the service time needed for free agency arbitration and salaries.
Several clubs scrambled to add players before the shutdown and the expected signing freeze, and committed more than $1.9 billion in new contracts. Among them were big deals for two of the eight members of the federation’s executive subcommittee: Texas player Marcus Simin ($175 million) and Scherzer ($130 million).
“That’s actually kind of fun,” Scherzer said. “I’m a fan of the game, and to watch everyone sign now, to actually see the teams compete at this kind of good time, it’s been refreshing because we’ve had a freeze in the past several seasons.”
Much has changed since the 232-day strike that shortened the 1994 season, led to the first cancellation of the World Championship in 90 years and caused the 1995 season to start late. That pause only ended when a federal judge—future Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor—issued an injunction forcing owners to restore business rules for an expired business contract.
The median salary fell from $1.17 million before the strike to $1.11 million but then resumed its seemingly unforgiving rise. It peaked at just under $4.1 million in 2017, the first season of the newest CBA, but will likely drop to around $3.7 million when you factor in the final numbers for this year.
These funds are highly concentrated at the top of the salary structure. Of the nearly 1,955 players who signed contracts in the Major League at any time during the final month of the regular season, 112 players have earned $10 million or more this year as of August 31, of whom 40 have made at least $20 million, Including the shares distributed from the signing bonus. .
There were 1,397 winnings under $1 million, of which 1,271 were at $600,000 or less and 332 were under $100,000, a group of young players who shuttled back and forth to the Palace.
Federation President Tony Clark, a former All Star first man who became CEO after Michael Winner’s death in 2013, said the players are united and understand the need to stay together to achieve common goals. Both parties are still suing over the 2020 season that has been cut short for the pandemic, slashing how long the season could have taken and taking their positions before a neutral arbitrator.
The Federation refrained from granting financial licenses, as it usually does in bargaining; Cash, US Treasuries, and investments totaled $178.5 million as of December 31, according to a financial disclosure form submitted to the US Department of Labor.
“We have a nice war chest behind us of money that we can allocate to players,” Scherzer said.
Some players’ agents have speculated that management’s credit lines may already come under pressure after the income deprivation caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but clubs’ finances are more opaque in public than those of the federation, making it difficult to ascertain the comparative financial strength to withstand a long business. Stop.
Rob Manfred, who succeeded Bud Selig as commissioner in 2015 after a quarter-century as an MLB work negotiator, made clear last month that management would prefer an informal shutdown over a mid-season strike.
“We’ve been down that road. We locked our doors in 1989 and ’90,” he said. “I don’t think 1994 was very cool for anyone. I think when you look at other sports, the pattern has come to control the timing of the labor dispute and trying to reduce the possibility of an actual disruption to the season. That’s what it’s about. It avoids doing damage to the season.”
Scott Borras, who negotiated the Scherzer deal and halted Cory Seeger’s $325 million contract with the Texans, pushed the union to insist on the change to reduce the incentive to cut salaries during rebuilding.
“Sometimes the rules of the game require them to do things that are not in the best interest of the game,” Boras said, “and to be better competitors for the next year they have to do things the rules direct them to do.”
Bloom reports from New York and Hawkins from Irving, Texas.