Big League Chew
Today is opening day!
The MLB season has returned for the 2022 edition. Personally, I never thought this day would come due to the events of the offseason. After the Atlanta Braves miraculously won the 2021 World Series title, the league’s collective bargaining agreement expired on December 1. Both the players association and the owners would need to negotiate and compromise on several key issues in order to gain a new collective bargaining agreement, but because they were so far apart the owners decided it was in their best interest to start a lockout.
The players association had several non-negotiables that they weren’t willing to budge on and were happy to try to negotiate compromises during the lockout. They wanted to raise minimum salaries for every player on a team’s active 40-man roster. They wanted to end the legal but unethical practice of service time manipulation, which owners use to delay when superstar players are eligible to see free agency. By keeping players in the minor leagues longer, they can avoid the big salary payouts that players usually get in free agency and keep good talent on a team longer for cheaper.
The players also wanted to input a salary floor for all 30 teams. Unlike other North American sports, MLB is the only sport without a salary cap. In practice, teams that want to spend more to acquire better talent can spend as much money as they want to. The only caveat is that over a certain salary point, which changes each year based on a few factors, that team’s owner must pay a luxury tax on top of what they’re already spending on salary.
However, there is also nothing stopping teams from spending as little as possible. The player’s union wanted to put in salary floors to stop teams from blatantly tanking and fielding glorified minor league teams. This would force notoriously cheap teams, such as the Pittsburgh Pirates, to finally buy and retain talent because they had to spend up to a certain threshold. The players and the owners were very far apart on these concepts, which is why the lockout began in the first place and the first two series of the season were canceled. The season’s third series was in jeopardy, which would’ve canceled a famed Boston Red Sox versus New York Yankees homestand, but thankfully a breakthrough was made.
In an event no one could’ve predicted, the players association caved on all of their demands and the owners emerged victoriously. The owners didn’t budge on the salary floor concept or service time manipulation, but they did throw the players a bone and raise the minimum wage a bit. In exchange for giving up absolutely nothing, the owners also forced the players to accept expanded playoffs with more teams on both sides and a universal designated hitter in both leagues. No more hitting pitchers ever again, except Shohei Ohtani. The players’ only leverage was in refusing to play, and with each game being canceled not postponed, the players were also losing valuable paychecks each step of the way. Eventually, they realized they couldn’t compete with the billionaires who write said paychecks and conceded defeat.
Because of the most lopsided negotiations ever in a sports work stoppage, baseball is back! I’m excited to see if the Braves will be able to repeat as champions now that, according to their best player Ronald Acuna Jr., locker room cancer and overall prick Freddie Freeman is gone. Will the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have the wealthiest owners and a team stacked with talent from top to bottom, be able to overcome locker room cancer and overall prick Freddie Freeman joining their team? Will Ohtani continue his two-way dominance and repeat as American League MVP? Will the Tampa Bay Rays continue to win games despite their flagrant lack of local support by the St. Petersburg fans? And what will we all make of this new home run derby global tour the league is putting on?
As a lifelong fan of the Boston Red Sox, I can’t wait to sit back, watch the games and see how this whole season unfolds.
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