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  • CBA Musings (1/21): What’s Happening and What’s Next?


    Ted Schwerzler

    After last week when we saw the Major League Baseball owners propose an updated CBA to the union, we’ve seen virtually nothing take place this week. Another seven days have gone by, and Spring Training isn’t getting any further away. Or, maybe it is...

    Image courtesy of Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

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    The players were disappointed in what the league presented to them a week ago, especially after taking more than a month to do so. The sides have not met at all this week, but the latest reports have them getting together in person on Monday, January 24. That meeting will take place over a week since the last proposal, and no counter-proposal is necessarily set to come from it.

    The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal wrote a scathing piece the other day that started with the sentence, “Not a single game should be lost.” He’s not wrong, but I fear that won’t be reality. After being let go from MLB Network because Rob Manfred thought the reporter was too critical, Rosenthal comes out firing in this one. As Rosenthal notes, this is Rob Manfred’s legacy at stake. He represents the owners but seemingly gets in his own way when trying to put a PR spin out for fans.

    Stephen Nesbitt penned another piece for The Athletic that highlighted fan responses from more than 11,000 respondents across a handful of subjects. Not entirely labor or CBA related, there was plenty that did intersect, however. Just 2.8% of fans responded they were happy with the current overall state of MLB, with another 9.4% being indifferent. The rest all responded with being either angry, hopeful, or disappointed. Over 66% of fans blame the owners for the lockout, with both sides sharing blame at a 33% clip. 92.1% of fans think that this mess will impact Spring Training, with respondents being virtually split on regular-season games being lost. It’s a great look at the state of affairs for the league and not a glowing one in any sense.
     
    Just yesterday, Evan Drellich wrote that the “owners are testing the players,” which is the last thing fans want to hear. Billionaires are playing a game of chicken with the players while we all suffer because of it. Major League Baseball has made only minor concessions in their proposals, and they’ve hardly addressed each key area in one fell swoop. Drellich notes that this is by design, and the owners are looking to see whether players are willing to lose paychecks. As time dwindles, the hope from MLB is that players will cave and return to the field without having the majority of their demands met. Manfred’s goal is to find a way forward that has owners giving in to the least amount of change.
     
    We’ve crossed the one-month mark until pitchers and catchers are supposed to report for Spring Training. That’s not going to happen on time, and we spent these last seven days without any meaningful progress.

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    Makes me say once again... thank god for HS and college baseball.

    My son's season just officially started last week, and he's being counted on to be a key member of the pitching staff this year so my focus is... well elsewhere.

    However, like many others here I still lament the position MLB has put itself in.  The part of this that truly bothers me is the flimsy and "meh" attempt by the league and their proxy lap dog (Manfraud) to appear morally superior.  While my opinion of the commissioner and owners would not change in the slightest, I could at least respect a strong 🤬 you stance towards the players.  If you're going to be a tyrant, at least be honest about it.

    And not without blame are the upper echelon earners in the league, there seems to be little interest (outside of a few exceptions possibly) in bettering the game for up an coming players.

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    I'm with MN_ExPat. I am a fan and supporter of baseball and want it healthy and growing and being the best it can be. Even now, my "SIDE" is baseball and not the owners or players. 

    But at some point I have to shake my head at the owners. I fully appreciate that it's a business. I would NEVER tell a business owner you shouldn't make money, or lose money, just to put your product out there. But the overall product of MLB is better with competition and excitement for the various fan bases. That excitement allows for growth, which means even MORE MONEY coming in! It's basic business sense. And one of the best things they can do is share the wealth more evenly to create better competition, in other words, a more equitable playing field for all. But I can understand some large market teams hesitant for greater profit sharing because they haven't created a FLOOR that basically forces smaller market teams to spend vs pocketing money shared. So they aren't holding THEMSELVES in check!

    And while I support the players on a higher annual pay scale, greater yearly guaranteed increases, and some sort of earlier FA for players who reach the league at an older age, I simply can't condone a pervasive attitude about increasing the luxury tax threshold and a universal earlier FA status that caters to the high market teams. It absolutely feels as though they want to cater to the top 20% and let everyone else in their union fend for themselves. Shouldn't they be more concerned about the competitive nature of the game they play, the growth of their profession, and greater financial benefits for their entire union? 

    I don't see an easy answer here only because basic logic seems to be thrown put the window on both sides. And Manfred, being employed by the owners, doesn't have enough love for the game, common sense, or brass, to just remind or inform the owners that they have the ability to make this all work if they just "balance" their own portion of financial responsibility in regard to the health of the game.

    I'm not on the side of the players for some of the demands they have made. But I think the onus is on ownership to put something together that makes sense for both sides and the good of the game.

     

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    4 hours ago, glunn said:

    I blame the owners.  Taking 43 days to make a proposal is inexcusable.

    It seems to me that both sides should be in mediation every day until this is resolved.  As in the past, this type of monkey business risks alienating fans and damaging owners and players alike.

     

    I have never been involved in this specific type of proposal so I would not know what is required just as I would not know how long it takes to prepare to prosecute a murder.  Never done that before either.  Baseball fans make a lot of judgements of things of which they have never actually done.  My teams have put together many proposals in the 100-500M range.  Those took a lot longer than 43 days.  It's not as if you sit down and pound out a document.  There is a lot of research and validation done. 

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    It seems to me that the owners and manless Manfred, are playing a very dangerous game of "Russian roulette " with the future of MLB.  The game is already being ruined by new rules and analytics that make the on field product look like an amateur video game.  The fact that it took them so long to make a proposal shows they have no interest in reaching a meaningful settlement.  I am so sick and tired of MLB and the players union taking fans for granted.  If any games are lost due to this ridiculous stoppage it can only alienate an already shrinking fan base.  

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    Like all of you, I am trying to keep baseball in a positive place while angry with Manfred and the owners - 90% of the blame goes to them for me.  They did not even need to wait until the end of the season to negotiate, but then to wait for more than a month to put out an offer they knew would be rejected is inexcusable.

    I had to write a forum today about when baseball was King, because the league seems to be determined to drop the sport to fourth place - just look at ESPN's banner NBA, college basketball and football, NHL, NFL then you have to do the drop down to find MLB between Cricket and NBA G league.

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    1 hour ago, mikelink45 said:

    Like all of you, I am trying to keep baseball in a positive place while angry with Manfred and the owners - 90% of the blame goes to them for me.  They did not even need to wait until the end of the season to negotiate, but then to wait for more than a month to put out an offer they knew would be rejected is inexcusable.

    I had to write a forum today about when baseball was King, because the league seems to be determined to drop the sport to fourth place - just look at ESPN's banner NBA, college basketball and football, NHL, NFL then you have to do the drop down to find MLB between Cricket and NBA G league.

    The relative amount of time is not the issue.  In listening to the national radio shows, the union will not budge on the 3 items,  Years of control, the competitive balance tax threshold, and reducing revenue sharing.  These three things expand the competitive disparity that already threatens the future of the league.  The owners are not going to cave on demands that are sure to have a long-term detrimental affect on the game/league.  That's why we are at an impasse not because it took longer to respond than people who have never participated in this type of process think it should take,  I put 90% of the blame on players for insisting on terms that would unquestionably further the already unacceptable level of competitive disparity.  Why would you as a Twins fan want the owners to accept terms that would make it even more difficult for our team to compete.  It would be extremely unfair to the fans of teams in the bottom 1/3 based on revenue.  

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    55 minutes ago, Major League Ready said:

    The relative amount of time is not the issue.  In listening to the national radio shows, the union will not budge on the 3 items,  Years of control, the competitive balance tax threshold, and reducing revenue sharing.  These three things expand the competitive disparity that already threatens the future of the league.  The owners are not going to cave on demands that are sure to have a long-term detrimental affect on the game/league.  That's why we are at an impasse not because it took longer to respond than people who have never participated in this type of process think it should take,  I put 90% of the blame on players for insisting on terms that would unquestionably further the already unacceptable level of competitive disparity.  Why would you as a Twins fan want the owners to accept terms that would make it even more difficult for our team to compete.  It would be extremely unfair to the fans of teams in the bottom 1/3 based on revenue.  

    I am not following these negotiations with the same details that you are, but the owners have set themselves up for this.  They never really addressed the competitive balance like the NFL has.  And they won't.  The tax is simply a self enforced salary cap.   There needs to be some real work on competitive balance and it is not in the language of the current or the projected CBAs

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    22 hours ago, mikelink45 said:

    I am not following these negotiations with the same details that you are, but the owners have set themselves up for this.  They never really addressed the competitive balance like the NFL has.  And they won't.  The tax is simply a self enforced salary cap.   There needs to be some real work on competitive balance and it is not in the language of the current or the projected CBAs

    I agree that what would be ideal in regard to improving competitive balance and that is not in the language of the current or the projected CBAs.  We can't change that reality.  What awaits us as fans is a the set of conditions being negotiated.  So, what's the best alternative among the imperfect options before us ?  We should accept the situation getting worse over the status quo.  Some here absolutely refuse to acknowledge the existence of the demands that would further the disparity.  It's brutally obvious the demands for service time / revenue sharing and CBT would further the disparity.  I can't get anyone to answer the question why we would want the owners to accept conditions that further erode parity.

    If the owners are as greedy as many suggest, why would a change in any of these terms impact how much they spend on players?  If they budget today for a bottom line of X percent, they can budget the exact same way under a new CBA granting the players demands.  What would change for sure, is the top tier free agents will go to the highest revenue teams a year earlier and small market teams will have even less capacity to keep players.  People bitch constantly here about this fact and then promote terms that would exacerbate the problem.

    I have one other question not for you but in general.  What is the benefit to fans of players making more money?  Where do the owners get the money they pay them?  From us of course.  You want to really improve the future of the game.  Pay players half what they are making now and give free streaming to every fan.  Reduce ticket prices and institute a requirement every stadium have an affordable / relatively healthy meal option for families.

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    17 minutes ago, Major League Ready said:

    I agree that what would be ideal would be an improvement in regard to competitive balance and that is not in the language of the current or the projected CBAs.  We can't change that reality.  What awaits us as fans is a the set of conditions being negotiated.  So, what's the best alternative among the imperfect options before us ?  We should accept the situation getting worse over the status quo.  Some here absolutely refuse to acknowledge the existence of the demands that would further the disparity.  It's brutally obvious the demands for service time / revenue sharing and CBT would further the disparity.  I can't get anyone to answer the question why we would want the owners to accept conditions that further erode parity.

    If the owners are as greedy as many suggest, why would a change in any of these terms impact how much they spend on players?  If they budget today for a bottom line of X percent, they can budget the exact same way under a new CBA granting the players demands.  What would change for sure, is the top tier free agents will go to the highest revenue teams a year earlier and small market teams will have even less capacity to keep players.  People bitch constantly here about this fact and then promote terms that would exacerbate the problem.

    I have one other question not for you but in general.  What is the benefits to fans of players making more money.  Where do the owners get the money they pay them.  From us of course.  You want to really improve the future of the game.  Pay players half what they are making now and give free streaming to every fan.  Reduce ticket prices and institute a requirement every stadium have an affordable / relatively healthy meal option for families.

    I believe your last paragraph is found in a placer called Shangri-La.   

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    6 hours ago, Major League Ready said:

    I have never been involved in this specific type of proposal so I would not know what is required just as I would not know how long it takes to prepare to prosecute a murder.  Never done that before either.  Baseball fans make a lot of judgements of things of which they have never actually done.  My teams have put together many proposals in the 100-500M range.  Those took a lot longer than 43 days.  It's not as if you sit down and pound out a document.  There is a lot of research and validation done. 

    It seems to me that the owners (and the players) have had years to develop their positions and to develop spreadsheets to run the numbers, and 43 days is far too long to make a proposal.

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    4 hours ago, Major League Ready said:

    The relative amount of time is not the issue.  In listening to the national radio shows, the union will not budge on the 3 items,  Years of control, the competitive balance tax threshold, and reducing revenue sharing.  These three things expand the competitive disparity that already threatens the future of the league.  The owners are not going to cave on demands that are sure to have a long-term detrimental affect on the game/league.  That's why we are at an impasse not because it took longer to respond than people who have never participated in this type of process think it should take,  I put 90% of the blame on players for insisting on terms that would unquestionably further the already unacceptable level of competitive disparity.  Why would you as a Twins fan want the owners to accept terms that would make it even more difficult for our team to compete.  It would be extremely unfair to the fans of teams in the bottom 1/3 based on revenue.  

    It seems to me that other sports leagues have worked this out.  Why can't the owners and the players look at the NFL. NBA, etc. and discuss other revenue sharing models?  I think that part of the problem is that the owners are unwilling to share information.

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    1 hour ago, mikelink45 said:

    I believe your last paragraph is found in a placer called Shangri-La.   

    I agree on that too.  The point is the utopic options are not realistic.  There is a set of terms and conditions being negotiated and unfortunately other alternatives are not relevant.  Do you believe that the specific terms I keep referencing would or would not make our problem with parity worse?  

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    18 minutes ago, glunn said:

    It seems to me that other sports leagues have worked this out.  Why can't the owners and the players look at the NFL. NBA, etc. and discuss other revenue sharing models?  I think that part of the problem is that the owners are unwilling to share information.

    They are already sharing revenue so the sharing of information is likely not the hold-up.  The revenue differential top to bottom is nearly 3:1.  It would take a massive redistribution of revenue to really level the playing field.

    Put yourself in their position.  If you owned the Yankees, Dodgers or any other top 6-7 team in revenue, would you not only give up your competitive advantage and in the process take an enormous hit to the valuation of your business?  Anyone who has every owned a business would give a resounding no to this question.  How do you think the players would react to the suggestion top paid players share their income with the lowest paid players?

    This is all purely speculative anyway.  There are not any ideal solutions on the table.  The options we do have on the table are bad for parity and bad for the game.  Are you OK with making it worse because we don't have an option that will make it better?

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    It's all up to the owners to make proposals I see. Honestly, there appear to be two sides for fans to take.

    1) I don't like businesspeople with lots of money because I don't have lots of money. Therefore, wealthy businesspeople are evil and everything they do is bad. They have infinite money because they have a lot more than me and therefore, they shouldn't try to effectively run businesses. They should just do whatever players want!

    2) The MLBPA proposals undermine the competitive balance of the sport, don't make any economic sense or accomplish the goals they've laid out and would result in the game being less entertaining. Their proposals are unreasonable and will damage MLB if owners accepted them.

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    It was for many a year the economics of baseball were dependent on the fan, the player & the owner. Baseball doesn’t drive baseball any more. It’s the other revenue venues market that drive baseball. The revenue from fans ticket sales doesn’t drive baseball anymore. It’s driven by the TV Rights (advertising), radio, an many other types of media,  the company store using player name recognition to sell at impulsive & insulting prices, partnership advertising. & many other marketing products, & concessions to name a few.  Baseball suffers from the past sins of abusive power of owners. They don’t like the idea getting caught with their hands in the cookie ($$)  jar.  
    Baseball owners though baseball would be (king of the hill) because baseball controlled the lion share of leisure & sport $$$$ budget. But football, basketball, hockey, soccer, tennis, track & field, other sport venues have overcome collectively baseball by a wide margin.  
     

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    46 minutes ago, Old fox said:

    It was for many a year the economics of baseball were dependent on the fan, the player & the owner. Baseball doesn’t drive baseball any more. It’s the other revenue venues market that drive baseball. The revenue from fans ticket sales doesn’t drive baseball anymore. It’s driven by the TV Rights (advertising), radio, an many other types of media,  the company store using player name recognition to sell at impulsive & insulting prices, partnership advertising. & many other marketing products, & concessions to name a few.  Baseball suffers from the past sins of abusive power of owners. They don’t like the idea getting caught with their hands in the cookie ($$)  jar.  
    Baseball owners though baseball would be (king of the hill) because baseball controlled the lion share of leisure & sport $$$$ budget. But football, basketball, hockey, soccer, tennis, track & field, other sport venues have overcome collectively baseball by a wide margin.  
     

    40% of baseball revenue is still generated in stadium and only football generates more revenue.  If by collectively you mean that all these other sports combined generate more revenue ... I would hope so.  MLB needs to adapt a new model for TV rights.  It's an absolute cluster %@$%.  That's not easy given there are many long-term agreements in place.  They would need to adopt a model that would allow them to eventually sell broadcast/streaming rights with minimal restriction.  For example, anyone should be able to buy a season ticket to stream the games if they don't already get coverage via another subscription.  There is just no reason anyone on the planet should not be able to get a package at a reasonable price.

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    On 1/22/2022 at 7:09 AM, Major League Ready said:

    I have never been involved in this specific type of proposal so I would not know what is required just as I would not know how long it takes to prepare to prosecute a murder.  Never done that before either.  Baseball fans make a lot of judgements of things of which they have never actually done.  My teams have put together many proposals in the 100-500M range.  Those took a lot longer than 43 days.  It's not as if you sit down and pound out a document.  There is a lot of research and validation done. 

    Well, I have been involved in many labor disputes ... it actually doesn't take much to come to an agreement once you want to come to an agreement. Usually both sides agree in principle to things, but the actual document takes a while to come together as the 'wordsmithing' between lawyers is worked out. We've used stenographers in our negotiating sessions so the note taking of who said what and who agreed to what is clear for the process of lawyers actually hashing out the document. Work can go on when there is an agreement even if the actual document isn't ready for a couple of months. But ... both sides have to be willing. And, the owners need to end the lockout. It doesn't matter if you believe the players refused to negotiate, the owners still called the lockout, so they need to end it. There can be talks, but the owners have to agree to end the lockout. And both sides have to be willing to come to the table and willing to negotiate in good faith. They could be headed toward an agreement tomorrow, if they wanted, and the players on the field the next day, if they wanted.

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    2 hours ago, Major League Ready said:

    What will ending the lockout change in terms of the two sides coming to agreement or even the process itself?

    They can still talk, as I said, but until the lockout is lifted no one can go back to work, no one can be at their team’s facility, there is no communication with players. I’m not even sure how this affects the process of getting work visas, but I think all of that doesn’t happen until the lockout ends. The players are barred from everything. It signals an unwillingness.

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    7 hours ago, Squirrel said:

    They can still talk, as I said, but until the lockout is lifted no one can go back to work, no one can be at their team’s facility, there is no communication with players. I’m not even sure how this affects the process of getting work visas, but I think all of that doesn’t happen until the lockout ends. The players are barred from everything. It signals an unwillingness.

    I can see why you might come to this conclusion.  However, which party is unwilling?  The league has made an offer which demonstrates willingness in a very certain and specific way.    It is the players who are unwilling.  They rejected that offer which demonstrates clearly that they are the unwilling party.  Are you really suggesting the players would be more willing if they were not locked out?

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    14 minutes ago, Major League Ready said:

    I can see why you might come to this conclusion.  However, which party is unwilling?  The league has made an offer which demonstrates willingness in a very certain and specific way.    It is the players who are unwilling.  They rejected that offer which demonstrates clearly that they are the unwilling party.  Are you really suggesting the players would be more willing if they were not locked out?

    It doesn’t demonstrate anything if the offer was so far from being a good faith offer showing no real willingness to take steps toward compromise, Seriously,, the offer made was a PR move to say they’ve made an offer but the intent was not an offer to get talks started but to get rejected so ownership could say they tried and the players didn’t. (And as I’ve said many times, BOTH sides need to compromise or nothing will get done. Hard line stances in bargaining go nowhere, and that a good contract usually means neither side is happy in the end but can live with it.) And no, I’m not suggesting the players would be more willing if the owners ended the lockout, but a lockout is an ownership tactic/attempt in defensive strongarming. No one wants to blink right now so no one is showing any willingness here. But, as I said initially, if both sides were willing, this could be over tomorrow and work could start up the following day.

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    34 minutes ago, Squirrel said:

    It doesn’t demonstrate anything if the offer was so far from being a good faith offer showing no real willingness to take steps toward compromise, Seriously,, the offer made was a PR move to say they’ve made an offer but the intent was not an offer to get talks started but to get rejected so ownership could say they tried and the players didn’t. (And as I’ve said many times, BOTH sides need to compromise or nothing will get done. Hard line stances in bargaining go nowhere, and that a good contract usually means neither side is happy in the end but can live with it.) And no, I’m not suggesting the players would be more willing if the owners ended the lockout, but a lockout is an ownership tactic/attempt in defensive strongarming. No one wants to blink right now so no one is showing any willingness here. But, as I said initially, if both sides were willing, this could be over tomorrow and work could start up the following day.

    You are changing the starting point.  They had an agreement.  That’s the starting point by which to gauge which party was unwilling.  Let's not change topics.  You asserted the lockout demonstrated unwillingness on the owner's part.  I don't believe the lockout has absolutely nothing to do with why the parties have not agreed.  

    They have not agreed because the players have held very firm on three demands that would make the current problem with parity worse.  Would you really argue that shorter control, less revenue sharing and a substantial increase in the CBT won’t contribute to even greater competitive imbalance?  It would be just great if someone other than me was actually willing to discuss this issue because it is the real issue here.  We simply can’t blame anything else unless you can reasonably refute these demands would not further disparity.  More importantly, why would the fans of any team outside the top 5 or 6 in revenue want the owners to accept these demands?  Explain to me how these demands would not be bad for two-thirds of league, including the MN Twins?
     

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    On 1/22/2022 at 2:25 AM, glunn said:

    I blame the owners.  Taking 43 days to make a proposal is inexcusable.

    It seems to me that both sides should be in mediation every day until this is resolved.  As in the past, this type of monkey business risks alienating fans and damaging owners and players alike.

     

    You can blame the owners for waiting the 43 days to send proposal as an issues, however, I  blame both sides for how we got here, and how it will go.  Unlike in NBA or NFL where owners and players understand that when they work together to make a better product it will bring more money into the league and more money to share.  Those leagues know if you make a larger pie each will get more pie no matter how you cut.  MLB and players do not care how big the pie is, they want to larger slice and do not care that their slice is smaller because they made the pie smaller due to their own issues.

    The players have proposed things, that they claim is for helping make the overall product better, but it really is just to put more money into top players pockets, and allowing the top market teams to load up on more talent.  The owners continue to want to pay the least amount they can. 

    If the players and owners really care about having competitive games, balance of teams, and keeping players in home grown teams to help build fans support of players, they would work on a hybrid agreement between NBA and NFL.  

    The problem is, the players will never agree to a cap, but they are demanding a floor.  How can you expect there to be a floor without a cap.  In other leagues they have them, and they are based on league revenue, where the players will get a percent of the money teams make.  If I was an owner of say Tampa Bay, I would be 100 percent against a floor, without a cap.  This is because the high market teams could outbid for the top talents as they do already, forcing the lower teams to pay more for lessor talent, because you have to spend it.  This is does not help balance.  Also, what if the floor is above what a small market team makes because the players want to get rid of the revenue sharing that goes on as well.  

    I have long said this will be a long stoppage that will go into the season.  This is because both sides want to win against the other, and not come up with something that is best for both. Fans want to see the best talent at the MLB level, and want to see their teams compete late into seasons.  This is best done when talent is spread across teams, not all in one team.  This is also best done when there is little incentive of teams to keep talent in the minors until they have built up enough to make a push.  Tanking is not an issue in baseball, as the number 1 picks are never for sure MLB players.  However, teams will not try to win and keep top players in minors, not using up years of control, if they know they have little chance of making playoffs. 

    The problem is neither side can see how bad this will be for both until it is too late. 

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    4 minutes ago, Trov said:

     

    The players have proposed things, that they claim is for helping make the overall product better, but it really is just to put more money into top players pockets, and allowing the top market teams to load up on more talent.  The owners continue to want to pay the least amount they can. 

    The first part is obvious.  You can't claim to want better competitive balance when you ask for a big increase in the CBT and less revenue sharing. It's insulting they try to tell us they are concerned about competitive integrity.

    If the owners wanted to "pay the least amount they can", what would stop them from spending less under the old agreement or the terms being demanded by players?

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